For six decades, Israel has outperformed the whole Arab world in politics, in the economy, in science and in technology, in government and human resource management, comments Majid Kiyali, in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. The fact is, this Israel that many in the region like to call an "artificial state" appears to be socially and politically more stable, progressive and flexible than its neighbours in the region.
Talk about Israel's main strength coming exclusively from US support and the Jewish diaspora, while partly accurate, is quite misleading. It misjudges Israel's strengths and ignores where the Arabs have gone wrong on good governance, smart investment and transparency. "Israel, which makes accounts for three per cent of the total population of the Arab world, appears to be bigger than it really is and better able to develop its existing resources," the writer said. For instance, the country's $220bn GDP amounts to 11 per cent of the GDP of all Arab nations combined, and a fifth of that discounting oil revenues.
Likewise, Israel's $85bn annual budget equals that of its four immediate neighbours - Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria - yet public spending per capita in Israel is about $8,500 a year, 10 times the amount in all four countries. As things stand, nothing forces Israel into war, and nothing forces it into peace either.
"Long after the massacres perpetrated by the US in the Iraqi city of Fallujah - which saw the use of internationally banned biological and chemical weapons - eyes have started to turn to the affected city to take stock of the size of the catastrophe that hit it [in 2004]," writes Samir Saeed in the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej. Several research centres and universities in Iraq, the US and Europe are conducting investigative studies in order to assess the aftermath of the use of those weapons of mass destruction in Fallujah. "The latest of these studies, a medical one, was conducted by a research team from the University of Leicester in Britain. The study found that the death rate among newborns and the cancer rate among the Fallujah population after the 2004 US military raids have exceeded those registered in Hiroshima and Nagasaki," according to the columnist.
Iraqi experts have confirmed that for the next three generations, it would be impossible for a baby to be born without some sort of deformity in Iraq due to enriched uranium radiations left over from the Gulf War of 1991and the US invasion in 2003. All this while Iraqi politicians still prefer to conceal the population's deteriorating state of health, the writer said.
"Fairuz to me is above all laws. She is like the mother whom, even when she errs, we are eager to forgive," Ilham Shaheen, the celebrated Egyptian actress, told the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat. The Egyptian actress joined hundreds of Fairuz supporters who demonstrated in silence on the stairs of the museum holding portraits of the Lebanese diva as her songs resounded across the area. The sit-in was organised by a group that calls itself the "Fairuzis Society" under the banner of "No To Stopping Lady Fairuz From Singing."
The demonstration comes after differences over royalties and copyright between the diva and her in-laws. Many of Fairuz's songs and musical plays were composed by her husband Assi al Rahbani and his brother Mansour. The latter's children filed a case against Fairuz several months ago. The singer is now prevented by a court order from performing materials that have involved the artistic contribution of her late brother-in-law. "Fairuz is a case of spirituality; when we talk about her we should forget all material things," Ms Shaheen said, adding that "Fairuz to us Arabs is Lebanon, and any aggression against Fairuz is an aggression against Lebanon. And if Fairouz goes, Lebanon goes with it."
The African Union summit the in the Ugandan capital Kampala would have gone unnoticed were it not for the bomb attacks, writes Hilmi Shaarawi, the director of the Cairo-based Institute for Arab and African Research, for the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad. The attacks have brought a new dimension to the question of Somalia, a country from which, until recently, groups of young men had been hijacking colossal vessels in international waters using small powerboats. Last June's attacks in Kampala were then compounded by the more recent kidnapping of a French citizen by al Qaeda in north-western Africa. All in all, the AU summit, whose agenda was drafted before most of these events transpired, was awkwardly made to handle such major issues as the Nile water crisis between Egypt and the source countries, the upcoming referendum in Sudan, and the quest by the AU for a permanent seat at the Security Council.
Warts and all, this is a good development towards giving more weight to a hitherto coy AU. The body that must dwell more often on the security issues facing the continent. * Digest compiled by Achraf ElBahi @Email: firstname.lastname@example.org