Voices from the Arab press: Who will save Israel, the Palestinians?

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

 REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA): ‘Staunch supporter of Israel.’  (photo credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)
REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA): ‘Staunch supporter of Israel.’
(photo credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Who will save Israel? Who will save the Palestinians?

Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, January 28

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Thomas Friedman, the renowned American journalist, wrote a thought-provoking article in The New York Times titled “Biden Must Save Israel From Itself.” The article caused a stir due to the liberal Jewish writer’s well-known support for Israel and the two-state solution, and the timing of its publication coming after Netanyahu’s election. 

Supporters of Israel cannot ignore or condone the hate speech against Arabs adopted by Netanyahu and his ministers; the provocative visits to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem by Itamar Ben-Gvir, his appointee as minister of National Security; as well as the bloody bloodbath in Jenin, in which the Israeli army killed nine Palestinians. 

Netanyahu and his government are attempting to dominate the judiciary in Israel, harass the media, and promote religious projects that align with the demands and theories of the extreme Zionist Right. These actions have undermined the democracy of the Jewish state, which he has often celebrated in international forums as an “isolated democratic oasis in a turbulent sea of backward Arab dictatorships.” 

His current government and its ministers’ overtly racist practices are prompting even Israel’s supporters in the US Congress to reduce the unwavering support they have provided over the past six decades. Rep. Brad Sherman, a staunch supporter of Israel, warned Netanyahu over the impending judicial changes and his extremist Cabinet ministers. 

In light of these events, every loyal supporter of Palestinian rights wishes that Arab countries were more solid and united in their efforts to establish the rights of the Palestinian people. They would also like to see these countries take advantage of the difficult stage that Israeli foreign policy will soon enter – to promote the Palestinian cause. 

 AL-AZHAR University, Cairo. (credit: MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/REUTERS) AL-AZHAR University, Cairo. (credit: MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/REUTERS)

However, the Arab situation is far from unified and coordinated on the Palestinian issue, and even on various regional and international issues. How can the Arab situation be unified toward the Palestinian cause if the Palestinians themselves refuse to unify? The Palestinian arena has been plagued by a deep division for the past 15 years, with two distinct states and governments: one in the Gaza Strip led by Hamas, and the other, representing the Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. 

Both authorities vie for control through corruption, the subjugation of their own people and the exploitation of their cause. Currently, the Palestinian population is divided into two camps: one that still holds out hope for a Palestinian state through the two-state solution, and another camp that calls for resistance, combat and “jihad” until all of Palestine is liberated. This team is mainly led by the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movements, affiliated with Iran. 

Recently, Israeli liberal journalist Noa Landau wrote an article titled “The World Will Not Save Israel From Itself This Time” in response to the results of Israel’s elections in November, in which the far-right achieved unprecedented results. This Israeli question prompts a similar Arab question: “Who will save the Palestinians from those who exploit their cause, other than the Palestinians themselves?” – Saad Al-Ajmi

The Taliban iPhone

Al-Qabas, Kuwait, January 26

Despite the numerous defeats and setbacks suffered by armed fundamentalist movements throughout the Arab world, their backward mindset continues to persist in the minds of many Muslims, particularly Arabs. These movements are antithetical to joy, human rights, women’s dignity, education and the modern world at large. 

Abdullah Bin Bakheet, the acclaimed Saudi novelist, critic and screenwriter, was pleased with Al-Azhar University’s refusal to declare the Islamic State as an “apostate,” despite the fact that many intellectuals had protested the religious institution’s decision, accusing it of complicity with the enemies of Islam. However, after careful consideration, he realized that Al-Azhar had made the right choice. He could not find any reason to excommunicate ISIS based on its actions and decisions. 

According to him, excommunicating ISIS would mean excommunicating everyone who had stood on the pulpit, preaching in the name of religion during the Islamic awakening that swept the Muslim countries. ISIS had simply carried out and practiced what those voices were preaching, but they were too eager to implement it, and had announced mobilization before they had gathered the necessary strength, resulting in the world pouncing on them and ultimately defeating them. 

Bin Bakheet goes on to say that he was not one of those who wished for the demise of ISIS, but rather that the world should provide them a space in which they could establish their own state and implement the Sharia that all Islamic political organizations had promised, and that Muslim peoples had been eagerly awaiting. 

The Taliban had successfully formed a state of true Islam, which had been long-awaited. They assumed power in Afghanistan after expelling American troops. No country was now able to overthrow them. Consequently, there was no excuse for the Taliban to hesitate in applying the Sharia, as distinguished senior preachers had wanted, according to their interpretations of the Sharia. 

This application was expected to bring development, prosperity and a gift to the people of Afghanistan and the world.

The Taliban began by preventing women from receiving university education, leaving them with no place in public or private life. As a result, they are destined to become nannies for generations, even if they are educated. Their main duties are to obey their husbands, bring happiness to their hearts and protect their money. 

Women are not allowed to enter their home, give alms, leave the house, or wear clothing of their own choice without their husband’s permission. This is their “kingdom” in which they are expected to take pride. Indeed, the Islamists have brought upon themselves the society they so desperately wished for and wanted. 

Now, the world eagerly waits to see whether the Afghan experience succeeds in producing computers and semiconductors, giving birth to novelists and scientists, and advancing the causes of progress and civilization. They promised us a noble society once they came into power. So, when will we see the Taliban announcing new scientific inventions or, better yet, a new iPhone? – Ahmed Al-Sarraf

Can Leopard tanks change balance of power in the Ukrainian War?

An-Nahar, Lebanon, January 27

Can Leopard tanks change the balance of power in the Ukrainian war? This is a question that has been posed frequently in media outlets and defense institutes worldwide since Germany announced its decision to provide Ukrainian forces with Leopard 2 tanks. In order to provide Ukraine with more weapons from NATO countries, several European countries, including the three Baltic republics, Poland, and even Britain, initiated a political and media campaign to pressure Germany and encourage Berlin to move away from its cautious, reticent stance regarding supplying Ukraine with these tanks, which are deemed to be some of the best tanks in the world. 

Berlin, which has traditionally adhered to a conservative approach when it comes to its involvement in military theaters since the end of World War II, has been reluctant to provide Kyiv with much support for their defensive war against Russia. Before this, Berlin acted hastily to supply Kyiv with several Gepard anti-aircraft missiles, designed to be attached to armored personnel carriers, in an effort to detract from Kyiv’s demand for Leopard 2 tanks. 

This happened at a time when Britain was hurriedly providing Ukraine with 14 Challenger 2 tanks. Experts consider the German Leopard 2 tank to be the most advanced in the world, with advanced technology in its track, suspension and cannon systems. Studies show that the Leopard 2 is superior to all other tanks in the NATO alliance in terms of its ability to penetrate shields and fortifications from long distances. 

However, the question remains: Why has Berlin so far refrained from providing Kyiv with these combat tanks? Possible explanations include a shortage of a sufficient number of these tanks in the German army or in the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann company’s manufacturing plants. Additionally, its high cost in comparison to other available tanks may be a factor. 

Finally, some experts suggest that Germany’s long-term reluctance to accept Ukraine’s requests for Leopard 2 tanks is due to political reasons. On February 24, 2022, Russian forces invaded Ukrainian lands, reminding us of the preludes to expansionism that had been present since 2014. At this time, Russian forces had already invaded the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, occupied the Crimean Peninsula, and then annexed it to their territory. 

Germany has been very careful in its relationship with Russia since the start of the war, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz announcing an alteration in its defense policy. This included raising the defense budget. 

However, caution in supporting Ukraine has remained a main focus of Germany’s foreign policy. Berlin’s decision to provide Kyiv with Leopard 2 tanks is an important event that may indicate a shift toward greater German involvement in Ukraine. Ukraine is on the border of an expansionist and hostile Russia, and the tanks will have no real value unless they arrive in large numbers; that is, at least 100-200 units with spare parts and ammunition. 

Now, as the war enters a sensitive stage, Europe cannot afford to take a cautious, fearful stance. Vladimir Putin is playing chess like a professional, while the major European powers, such as France and Germany, are playing checkers like amateurs. – Ali Hamada

This is London!

Al Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, January 28

Last week, the terrestrial radio broadcast of the renowned BBC Arabic station came to an end. It will be replaced by a digital broadcast over the Internet. The importance of this channel cannot be overstated. Some believe that it was set up to serve and enlighten the Arab listener, while others believe that it was dominated by the agenda of the British Empire, which has been a significant part of the Arab world for the past 85 years. 

In recent times, the Arabic section has suffered from two major issues. First, the lack of funding has caused the same programs to be aired repeatedly, causing listeners to lose interest. Additionally, those in charge of the station, possibly from the Arab world, have not been sufficiently professional. Some of them were too passionate, leading to biased programs and even specific targeting against certain governments and states. 

Even so, there is more regret than delight at the station’s disappearance. Arabs have grown accustomed to the station and its perceived neutrality, making it almost a reality. Major countries like France, Germany, Russia, and the United States have radio and television stations directed at the Arab listeners. The professionalism of these institutions’ programming varies, but they are all primarily serving the agenda of their financiers. 

This agenda is employed both overtly and covertly, depending on the political and cultural biases of those in charge. Many media studies have concluded that “there is no media without an agenda.” 

In his book titled The Mind Managers, Herbert Schiller discusses the American media and confirms that there is no media “without a financing force that uses it.” Recent studies also affirm that “no media medium can replace another.” When the press first began in the United States, the public was concerned that mass gatherings would become obsolete, particularly during election cycles. However, the press flourished and did not cause these gatherings to disappear. 

Similarly, when radio emerged, the press was initially apprehensive, but eventually the two mediums coexisted and complemented each other. The same can be said for television in relation to the radio. Some observers suggested that the digital revolution, and the social media platforms that exist today, will diminish or eliminate the importance of printed and audio media.

However, both printed and audio media are still increasing in reach and distribution, evidenced by the success of newspapers in India, Southeast Asia, and even the Middle East. The difference lies in the content provided by these outlets, as well as the ability of those responsible for creating diverse and attractive content which is, most importantly, credible. 

Today, television news and newspapers are generally more credible than social media, which are often not regulated by an official body. This lack of control has caused confusion between the sender and receiver of information. It has been proven that most social media create a public opinion that is far from objective, and has had a negative effect on many societies.

Additionally, some people are able to manipulate images with Photoshop, making it difficult to regulate, even with laws. Radio is also an important form of communication, though it has been attacked by foreign sources. 

However, no Arab country has adopted radio as an alternative foreign Arabic radio station, perhaps due to a lack of awareness of the importance of radio, particularly in terms of analysis. Radio can serve listeners in places where they cannot watch television or read a newspaper, such as when they are in a car or in places that only radio can reach. 

For many Arab TV stations, despite their growth, there is a lack of professionalism that is evident to followers. Broadcasters, both male and female, often mispronounce the names of people and places in the news reports, indicating a lack of preparation on the part of the production team. Moreover, some talk show hosts ask questions that are much longer than the guest’s response. Furthermore, some hosts interrupt the guest, who is supposed to be an expert in the field, in order to present their own opinions

Unfortunately, it is the listener or viewer who has to bear witness to these events. Perhaps bidding farewell to the Arabic-language BBC radio station will make some wise people in the Arab world realize the importance of a balanced radio service. Unfortunately, such a service is yet to appear on the horizon, so the Arab listener will continue to rely on the stations of foreign countries. With a severe lack of literacy among many Arabs, they largely depend on what they hear and see; this is what is lacking in the Arab world. – Mohammed Al-Rumaihi 

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.