The Palestinian Al Hayat al Jadidah daily carried an opinion piece by the chief editor Hafez al Barghouthi who wrote: "We will know the fate of the prisoners swap deal, after we have learnt about the fate of the dialogue." The Israelis, he noted, are demonstrating daily to get their government to secure Sgt Gilad Shalit's release, while none of us is demonstrating to secure the release of our detainees. "There are no popular pressures pushing toward the signing of this deal or toward seeing the release of detainees, as though these people were not a part of us."
This deal involves military and political leaders who can contribute to restoring unity within the Palestinian ranks, Barghouthi stressed, "considering that the detainees who will be released have had the chance to think and debate the developments, and have previously issued the Prisoners Document which we stepped on and ignored". "We must therefore secure the swap deal to improve our domestic situation, considering that the names who are likely to be released are prominent ones enjoying experience in the areas of struggle, dialogue and unity. They are capable of introducing changes to the Palestinian reality."
London's Al Quds al Arabi daily carried an opinion piece by Dr Madawi Rashid who wrote: "The Saudi regime has managed to impose its grip on society through the consecration of a triangle of prohibitions, the three angles of which are politics, religion and sex." Throughout the twentieth century, he added, all of these issues were taboo, and a red line that could not be exceeded.
"Today, politics is the only one that remains and that is prohibited to the people, regardless of their ideological inclination. The regime therefore adopted this principle in the past and in the present, despite the openness witnessed on the Saudi arena and the King's calls on the people to criticise his policies. However, despite this new Saudi openness, the political angle is still restricted and while those who address political affairs are imprisoned, we can find some criticising the weak wings in the regime, such as the Information, Culture or Labour Ministries, and these critics are still free.
The writer concluded by saying that the Saudi command has toppled the religious and sexual prohibitions, "but is still holding on to the political prohibition because it knows that letting it fall will entail its own fall."
Badr Bin Saud, a regular columnist for Saudi Arabia's Okaz, wrote that the Gulf media are always accused of cheering their own officials and regimes. Some believe that this is a case particular to the Gulf "but reality tells us something different because the Arab Network for Human Rights Information revealed in a study in 2007 that an Arab country paid respectable sums of money between 2006 and 2007 in return for 25 per cent of the reports and studies published about it in eight newspapers and magazines issued in a certain Arab country." Corruption is widespread in the body of Arab media, Bin-Saud asserted. "There is no doubt that Arab media now enjoy a wider margin of freedom and movement, compared to the recent past. But if the Arab reporter or journalist is free from his government's grip, then he will be in the grip of the opposition or the extremist religious factions." As such, the author concluded, "the media and press outlets in the Arab world have to focus on solving the financial crises facing journalists and to cover their travelling and education expenses so that they might work in a healthy atmosphere not burdened with financial problems."
Ahmad Baha'a Eddine Sha'ban, an Egyptian columnist and one of the founders of the Egyptian opposition movement Kifaya, wrote in Lebanon's Al Akhbar: "In his first press statement after his release from prison, Aiman Nour, the head of the Al Ghad Party, said some important things. He said: 'I am not the prince of vengeance and I am not about to settle scores with those who caused my suffering.' He called for letting bygones by bygones and stretched his hands to everyone, including the National Democratic Party, the party of the regime that imprisoned him for the past few years and waged a campaign against him."
Nour's sudden release from prison, Sha'ban said, caused a wide controversy in Egyptian society. The American factor was, of course, the common denominator in all the explanations presented to understand why Nour was released one month after Barack Obama came to power. Now, with the end of the Republican era, it seemed clear to both the Egyptian and American sides that the circumstances were ripe for starting a new era in relations. * Digest compiled by www.mideastwire.com