The 15th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) kicked off yesterday in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, bringing back legitimate questions about the current role of this movement after the end of the Cold War, commented the Emirati daily Al Bayane in its leading article. NAM was founded in 1955 by three state leaders who had significant influence in post-Second World War international politics: the Indian premier Jawaharlal Nehru, the Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser and the Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito.
Theoretically at least, NAM is still operational, even if the main purpose for its genesis has vanished with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet empire. But, if there is any reason why it should stay alive in the modern "unipolar era", it is in NAM being the embodiment of "a valuable heritage from the recent past; a past of struggle against the remnants of colonialism and the global of stratagems of alliance and politics of dependency," the newspaper said.
The movement ought not be marginalised, for it is premised on elevated political principles promoting sovereignty of individual states and rejecting monopoly and hegemony schemes. If the G77 - the coalition of 77 developing countries within the United Nations - aims to defend the developing world economically, NAM must become more active as its political arm.
Benjamin Netanyahu's government seems to be caught in a spiral of reckless decision-making, which only exacerbates Israel's political alienation on both regional and international scales, opined the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi in its leader. The news circulated by several Hebrew newspapers on Tuesday about the Israeli government's intention to substitute Hebrew names for Arabic names of regions, towns and villages is "the latest manifestation of a certain pattern of rash policy-making within the Israeli cabinet."
If the Israeli government is to gain anything from this new "childish and paltry" decision to wipe out from street signs the Arabic - and English - names of such time-honoured Palestinian towns as Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jaffa, Acre and Hebron, it would be to mobilise the support of hardline groups domestically, in view of wavering foreign backing. Yet, while many may see the decision as "a threat to the Arab-Islamic imprint on the holy Palestinian lands," it may well turn against the Israelis themselves, because this renaming plan exposes to the world, particularly the West, "the hideous, racist face" of Israel and its leaders. Were it "the only democracy in the region," as it is often referred to by the US and Europe, Israel would respect other people's culture, language and identity, the newspaper said.
Following the success of the Lebanese parliamentary elections and the designation of Saad al Hariri, the majority leader, to form a new government, the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are hoping to receive special attention to redefine their complicated status, wrote Ali Badwan, a Palestinian writer, in the opinion pages of the London-based daily Al Hayat.
"Palestinians in Lebanon are still banned from some 73 jobs and denied work ID cards under the motto of 'fighting naturalisation'; a motto that proved counterproductive and pushed thousands of Lebanon's Palestinians into immigration, while thousands of workers from other nationalities, such as Sri Lankan, Bengali, and other African and former Eastern Bloc countries, enjoy their full labour and residence rights," he said.
Despite the mild relaxation of the Lebanese authorities' grip on Palestinian refugee camps for many years now, it is still illegal for them to import building materials to restore what has been damaged during the "bloody clashes that targeted Palestinians" who have been accused of possessing and using weapons against Lebanese groups in the past. The issue of Palestinian weapons in Lebanon has long been governed by two interrelated themes: first, the lack of "social security" of refugees in the absence of impartial Lebanese legislation; second, the "persecution" of the Palestinians and denial of their civil rights.
President Barack Obama had to sit through strong criticism during his meeting last Monday with 15 Jewish-American community leaders at the White House, urging him to exert "equal pressure" on both Israelis and Arabs; such a pressure, they claimed, was significantly tougher on their compatriots, wrote Hani Habib in the comment section of the Palestinian daily Al Ayyam. "Such blames are just as odd as they are funny," he said, because it has never occurred, under any of the previous US administrations, Republican or Democrat, that Washington pressured Israel more than any other party it happens to be in conflict with, except in the rare instance when the US would temporarily yield to Arab complaints.
"Some may say Mr Obama has no plan, that his positions are patchy, or that he actually relies on the Bush road map when he speaks about the commitments of the parties involved," the writer said, "but we do think that Mr Obama has an overarching, if in need of some gap-filling, vision." The US would probably not wait for the outcome of the inter-Palestinian talks in Cairo, or for a clearer Syrian position with respect to relations with Lebanon or Iran. Its broader diplomatic trajectory on the Middle East appears not to be daunted by occasional hitches.
* Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi firstname.lastname@example.org