voices from the Arab press: A weekly selection of opinions and analyses

The conflict has become so personal that we have lost track of what it is really about.

A YOUNG Jewish settler in Hebron looks out of a window in a disputed building. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN - REUTERS)
A YOUNG Jewish settler in Hebron looks out of a window in a disputed building.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN - REUTERS)
Akhbar al-Khaleej, Bahrain, September 6
“Allow me to voice an opinion that has become somewhat unpopular in the Arab media these days: I lament the demise of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The recent crisis between Gulf states and Qatar seemed to have sent pundits and journalists on both sides of the border on a terrible mission of self-destruction.
All parties involved in this debate – those siding with Qatar, as well as those siding with its boycotters – have become so embroiled in hating the other side that they forgot how close we, residents of the Gulf, really are.
“Many years ago, in what seems now like a bygone era, the GCC was formed with the aim of strengthening the ties between the people of our region, while encouraging cooperation among our governments.
For many years, it was a successful organization that allowed our countries to solve their disputes internally and ensure the security and prosperity of our people.
“All of this sounds like a daydream today. We are now living in the midst of an unprecedented conflict that is fueled by unnecessary hatred. Political leaders who once admired Qatar now speak of it as the world’s worst tyranny. Slurs and insults have become a common part of the rhetoric used to describe Doha.
“Indeed, the conflict has become so personal that we have lost track of what it is really about. It seems as if we are fighting just for the sake of fighting. Sadly, the repercussions of what has happened over the past few months is irreversible. The GCC will never return to its days of glory. Gulf states will never be able to overcome the displays of hatred we are witnessing here on a daily basis. At best, the GCC will turn into yet another ineffective organization, like the Arab League. At worst, it will be disbanded altogether and disappear, together with the brotherhood that once characterized our people.”
– Khaleel al-Anani
Filastin, Gaza, September 7
“Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman granted Hebron’s Jewish community official municipal status. This will allow the 1,000 Jews residing in the Palestinian city to enjoy municipal services separate from those provided to some of its 220,000 Arab inhabitants.
“What is even more shocking than the audacious Israeli move is the weak Palestinian response to it. The PLO issued a feeble statement condemning the Israeli action and calling on the Israeli authorities to reverse their decision. Not a single threat was made. Not a single reference to Palestinian resistance was mentioned. Instead, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has turned into a mouthpiece of the Israeli government, subserviently allowing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government to do whatever is pleases in the Occupied Territories.
“The formation of an independent Jewish municipal entity in Hebron is a direct violation of the Hebron Agreement and the Oslo Accords, which granted the PA authority over the city. It is also a dangerous precedent. The new Jewish council can easily turn into a strong municipality that threatens its Palestinian counterpart and, later, replaces it.
“Under Israel’s creeping regime of apartheid, this is usually how things end up. Small and discreet changes on the ground later develop into full-fledged alterations of the status quo. Continuing to pay lip service will not suffice anymore. The PLO must devise a new strategy to deal with the expansion of Israeli settlements – one that goes beyond issuing meaning-less statements of condemnation. We are losing our homeland before our eyes, and we are doing nothing about it.”
– Faiz Abu-Shimala
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, September 6
“Don’t believe all the nonsense you’re hearing these days about a diplomatic solution in Syria. A just solution to the crisis there is far from being achieved. The very problem lies with negotiations themselves, which are conducted by Russian officials.
“How can anyone expect a Russian general, whose country drops dozens of bombs a day on the Syrian opposition, to be a fair mediator? This is almost as foolish as believing that the United States could ever conduct fair negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Russia and Iran are the ultimate rulers in Syria today. Whatever they decide will happen. Sadly, it is in their best interest for the current regime to remain in power, so any agreement they offer will be inherently bad for the Syrian people.
“Just as the Taif Agreement that ended the Lebanese Civil War empowered Hezbollah over all other Lebanese factions, so, too, will any solution imposed by the Russians in Syria empower President Bashar Assad and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. In fact, in Syria it might be even worse because the power disparities between the regime and the opposition there are even bigger than those that existed at the time in Lebanon.
“If the Syrian people don’t want to return to square one then they must fight for their country. Yes, the human toll has already been devastating and frightening. Yet any compromise that risks a takeover of the country by a small minority that tyrannized the people over the past few decades is worse than the current state of war.”
– Faisel Kassem
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, September 9
“The struggle between Qatar and its neighbors continues to unfold, this time at the White House, following the visit of the Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to Washington. During his meeting with Donald Trump, Sheikh Al-Sabah invited the US president to mediate the talks between GCC states and Qatar – an offer that was gladly accepted.
“In doing so, Sheikh Al-Sabah sent a clear message to the Qatari government: whatever concessions you weren’t willing to make to us, you will now have to make to the Americans. This is a brilliant move, as it will once again expose the Qatari stubbornness to the world. US President Trump already made this point clear when, during a press conference with the emir, he warned Doha to stop funding terrorism and violence in the region.
“In the 90 days that have passed since the Arab embargo on Qatar was implemented, Doha has done everything in its power to evade responsibility for its actions. It has turned to almost every international forum, from the United Nations to the World Trade Organization, to file complaints against the boycott, but has done nothing to address the clear demands provided to it by GCC states.
“After years of sinister intervention in the domestic affairs of almost all of its neighbors, Doha is finally isolated and paying the price for its actions. It is true that ending this crisis is a top priority for the Arab world. But not at any cost. Qatar must mend its ways and renounce terrorism. Only then can it be held accountable for its actions. So far it has tried to dupe its neighbors; now it must try to do the same to the White House.”
– Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed