Voices from the Arab press: Sadat’s genius decision for war, peace

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

 EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT Anwar Sadat and prime minister Menachem Begin acknowledge applause during a Joint Session of Congress in which US president Jimmy Carter announced the Camp David Accords results, in Washington, Sept. 1978. (photo credit: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/WARREN K. LEFFLER/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT Anwar Sadat and prime minister Menachem Begin acknowledge applause during a Joint Session of Congress in which US president Jimmy Carter announced the Camp David Accords results, in Washington, Sept. 1978.

Sadat’s genius in his decision for war and peace

Al-Ahram, Egypt, October 22

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The brave decision taken by President Anwar Sadat to wage war against Israel on October 6, 1973, was a genius decision not only because it erased Egypt’s shame of defeat and allowed it to recover its lands, but also because it paved the path toward peace. Thanks to Sadat’s extraordinary vision, a bloody conflict with a hateful enemy, which lasted 30 years, finally came to an end in 1978, at Camp David. 

In 1977, Sadat spoke before the Egyptian parliament and announced his readiness to visit the Knesset and meet with his Israeli counterparts. By doing so, he opened the door to negotiations between Egypt and Israel for a partial Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, and to cease-fire and disengagement negotiations held under the auspices of the UN and the UN Security Council. 

Unfortunately, Sadat’s assassination in October 1981, during a celebration of Egypt’s victory, didn’t allow him to reap the fruit of the seeds he had sown. 

 ALGERIAN AND French flags fly ahead of the arrival of French President Emmanuel Macron in Algiers, Aug. 25. (credit: RAMZI BOUDINA/REUTERS) ALGERIAN AND French flags fly ahead of the arrival of French President Emmanuel Macron in Algiers, Aug. 25. (credit: RAMZI BOUDINA/REUTERS)

Sadat’s tireless efforts paved the way to negotiations followed by peace, because he was fully aware that the results of bloody conflicts and wars destroy both society and the economy. Directing all of Egypt’s economic resources to arms dealers and manufacturers in order to sustain a long-term war would be detrimental to Egypt. 

He therefore decided to shift Arab-Israeli relations from the stage of stagnation to the stage of moderation. He hoped to bring an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab lands and the right of self-determination for the Palestinians. 

He dreamed of achieving prosperity and stability for all Arab peoples. And he hoped that his fellow Arab rulers would agree with him about moving away from conflict and toward peace. Indeed, the Arab world was in a state of permanent war with Israel since the catastrophe of the Palestine War in 1948. The Arab victory over Israel in 1973 marked an end to this chapter. 

Yet the Arab response to Sadat’s initiative was to boycott and isolate Egypt from the Arab nations. This supported the formation of the rejectionist front led by Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who threatened to topple any Arab leader cooperating with Egypt. 

In fact, as a result of this boycott, the headquarters of the League of Arab States was moved from Cairo to Tunisia. So, after the Arabs failed him, Sadat had no choice but to make peace unilaterally with Israel, with the support of the Egyptian public. 

He was not deterred and, under the leadership of president Jimmy Carter, traveled to Camp David to conclude the treaty with Israel. With one stroke of the pen Sadat brought an end to a bitter conflict with an enemy, and put Egypt on a path of growth and modernization. – Nasr Muhammad Ghobashi

Reforming Kuwait’s political system

Al Rai, Kuwait, October 23

Kuwait wasted 50 years of its existence on bitter political battles and ineptitude. During the 1970s, Kuwait served as a role model to other countries. Our political system was an example cited by scholars both inside and outside the Arab world. Our leadership model was unparalleled. 

But then, things took a significant downturn. Our commitment to public service disappeared due to deplorable political battles. Corruption plagues our government offices. Cronyism took over our society. 

Today, if we’re still serious about seeing our country flourish, we must find a miraculous way to change our ways. We must rid ourselves of the destructive culture that has been entrenched in our society for several decades. We must innovate and move away from our dependence on oil, which is seeing a global decline in significance. 

We must invest in rebuilding our political system. We must establish basic credentials that all ministers and legislators must meet in order to serve in office, as is the case with advanced Western parliaments. 

We must ensure that doctors, economists, accountants, lawyers and academics enter our political system – and bring their expertise to the table. Ultimately, the quality of our legislative process will be determined by the quality of our officials in office and the people surrounding and advising them. 

Sadly, years of neglect have made us lose our greatness in the world. World powers no longer pay attention to our presence or existence. If we look at international officials conducting visits to the region, it becomes immediately apparent that most of them visit our neighboring countries, but not Kuwait. 

The number of investments made in Kuwait by international companies has declined. Recently, an ambassador of a major country told me that they are no longer interested in working in Kuwait, given the state of corruption. 

These sentiments cannot be ignored. If we want to see a future for Kuwait, we must act fast. – Sami Al-Nisf

France is insulting the victims of colonialism

Al-Ittihad, United Arab Emirates, October 20

In the past few days, a major American newspaper published an extensive report describing how France returned to Algeria 24 skulls, known to be the remains of Algerian resistance fighters. 

The report was shocking and outrageous. Instead of revealing the scandalous history behind this entire case, the story centered on the fact that only six of the skulls could be confirmed as belonging to Algerian fighters, with another 18 skulls whose identities could not be ascertained.

With both governments apparently intent on ignoring the skulls’ questionable origin, the transfer was heralded as a “strong gesture” and “a milestone in the two countries’ efforts to rebuild their relations.” 

Ultimately, the story provided more questions than answers about the past. The grim truth is that Algerian resistance leaders and civilians were regularly beheaded during the French invasion of North Africa in the 19th century. The skulls were part of a collection of 18,000 human bones brought from former French colonies and placed in the Paris Museum of Humanity.

Among the thousands of skeletal remains in the collection were bones from all over Africa, North America and Asia. French military personnel and archaeologists brought these bones to France and then handed them over to the museum as part of an effort to study and classify racial differences. 

France’s return of these skulls is just one of about 20 repatriations of remains to other countries. In this case, it can be considered an incomplete process, because France only “lent” the remains to Algeria for a period of five years. And the most ironic part of it all is that the French are using this as a publicity stunt to wash their hands clean.

It would have been better for France to offer an explicit apology full of regret for the atrocities it inflicted upon the Algerian people during its century-long invasion and brutal repression. The closest thing to such an apology was a strange statement by French President Emmanuel Macron recently, in which he said that “both sides have suffered.” 

But France still has to provide some form of reparation for the damage done to Algeria and its people. I write this out of my perpetual disappointment with the way the French, and the West in general, continue to present themselves as the bearers of civilization, culture and values in the world, while portraying the peoples of the East or the South as less civilized races. 

Western racist “scientists” at the Museum of Humanity measured the dimensions of the skulls they studied to prove white supremacy. Sociologists explored what they considered inferior cultures, while their political and military leaders invaded the lands of these “lower peoples,” imposed themselves upon them, and plundered their resources to serve the higher purposes of Western nations. 

In Algeria alone, millions of people were left to die of disease and starvation in order to serve the interests of France and its people. France is no different from many other Western colonial powers, most notably Great Britain, Portugal and Spain. The conquests and exploitative rule of these colonial powers caused global destruction and immense human suffering. 

This is not just an outdated issue. The damage they caused continues to affect the realities of the victim states. The conclusion is clear: The West built its wealth and its pretense of a civilized democratic system on the backs and bones of those it crushed. 

To get past this and move forward, the harm done must be acknowledged and those responsible must be held accountable. Only then can action be taken to achieve restorative justice. Returning the skulls merely to remind the victims of the evils of the past is an insult to the damage and atrocities that have been done. – James Zogby

Terrorism and technology

An-Nahar, Lebanon, October 22

The technology that Western nations developed with the aim of serving humanity has turned into a dagger that extremist groups wield on our side of the globe. These organizations have become extremely capable of using these technologies to carry out terrorist operations on the one hand, and to mitigate efforts to fight them, on the other. 

Technology is the backbone of extremist organizations and the secret to their survival – whether they reside on the outskirts of cities or in the vast deserts they use as their havens. Through it, they communicate with their fighters, conduct encrypted meetings that last for hours, and share instructions to carry out operations. Technology also allows these groups to monitor their activity and manage their fighters in real-time. 

Therefore, if we are truly interested in fighting terrorism, we must confront the countries that manufactured these cutting-edge technologies but failed to prevent them from being abused. For example, the Telegram app is widely used by criminal networks and extremist groups for daily encrypted communication. 

When Telegram finally agreed to delete suspicious accounts, terrorist groups simply created new accounts that allowed them to continue using the platform. Today, the Islamic State is still using this technology to conduct its activities around the world. 

Extremist organizations have exploited cyberspace and used technology for their own benefit. They succeeded in investing in cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, and made profits of tens of millions of dollars. 

A report by the US Treasury indicated that ISIS possesses nearly $100 million in cash. Some of this money comes from selling oil in territories it controls, but a lot of it comes from criminal online activity. The US succeeded in confronting ISIS, and even overthrowing its so-called “caliphate,” but it failed to confront the organization through cyberspace. 

Indeed, technology has become the most difficult realm in which to confront terrorism, and even the strongest Western nations have become unable to confront terror groups that have succeeded in developing technology for their benefit. 

It is simply impossible to defeat terrorism without focusing on technology. It doesn’t matter how much military force is used in the battlefield; terrorist groups will continue to exist and flourish so long as cutting-edge technologies are being made available to them. – Mounir Adib 

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.