“This is just the beginning of the murder case of Yasser Arafat. From his resting place, the man who spent his life as a turbulent activist, irking his friends and enemies alike, is still capable of kicking up the dust at a very delicate phase,” wrote columnist Sawsan Al Abtah in yesterday’s edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.
“Even in their death, some people seem to have more presence and influence than living individuals in power,” she wrote, referring to the re-emergence of serious allegations that Israel might have murdered Yasser Arafat by poisoning him with Polonium-210 in 2004.
Swiss researchers issued a report last week confirming that high levels of polonium, a radioactive substance, were found in Arafat’s remains.
“Just as the US secretary of state, John Kerry, was conducting shuttle visits between the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in an attempt to resuscitate the peace process … news of the Swiss experts’ findings was making headlines,” Al Abtah wrote.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has not yet formulated a clear stance on these recent findings as it awaits the results of a similar report from Russian experts.
“And this is not all,” the author went on.
“A case that has been filed with a French court will now find in the Swiss report … a strong piece of evidence to open an investigation – which, all the same, should not be expected to yield results any time soon.”
But the Palestinian leadership – which has once been accused of helping to cover up, in conjunction with the French authorities, the murder of Arafat in hopes of making gains (that were never attained) in negotiations with the Israelis – must start to think about how best to respond to these new developments in the context of a wobbly peace process.
“Israel will never stop being difficult and arrogant if it is not put under pressure, threat and force. And Arabs, who know how to use weapons only against each other, could benefit from the advice of Uri Avnery,” she wrote, referring to the well-known Israeli peace activist and dissident.
“A few days ago, Avnery said that the Israeli government will never make concessions in peace talks unless there is war, or fear of the demographic balance tipping in favour of Palestinians, or under serious international isolation,” the author cited.
“Here, we must recall the fact that new coalitions and maps are taking shape in the region, so it is not really the time for the PA to ignore the murder of Arafat as a pressure tool.
“It is actually the right time for the PA to use this card to reinforce its position at the negotiations with Israel,” she concluded.
The US is confused at home and abroad
The Obama administration seems to be having a very bad season, failing to preserve key foreign allies, especially in the Middle East, and faltering when it tries to solve domestic issues, wrote columnist Hazem Saghiya in the opinion pages of Al Ittihad, the Abu Dhabi-based daily newspaper.
“While observers are still awaiting to see the outcome of the recent visit by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, it has become a matter of consensus that the focus of Mr Kerry’s boss, Barack Obama, clearly outstrips his interest in foreign affairs,” the writer said.
The problem is that this fraying of relations between the US and some of its closest allies is not counterbalanced by domestic successes, he observed.
Between the spying scandal involving the US National Security Agency – which has dented Washington’s relations with nations like Germany and France – and the government’s continuous difficulties to reactivate the local job market and get an affordable health care programme going, the Obama administration took too many punches, the writer said.
One wonders, is this confusion in US policy attributable to Mr Obama’s leadership, or is it more about a general overwhelming effect that the whole US establishment – Republicans and Democrats – are feeling in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the global economic crisis?
‘Arab street’ for public opinion is demeaning
It is rare for media to refer to “Arab public opinion”, wrote Faisal Al Qassem in an opinion article for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi. Instead, media often refers to “Arab street” which is a loose, vague term and difficult to define.
“Did you ever hear American media speak of American street, for example?” Wrote Al Qassem, who moderates the Opposite Direction, a famous debating programme on Al Jazeera. “Is there British street, French street, German street or even African street?”
“I don’t know why Arab citizens accept being linked to the street. That is probably intentional.”
Al Qassem adds that this media attitude towards Arab citizens is no different from that of the Arab leaders.
The term is “pejorative” and suggests that Arabs’ public opinion is “chaotic and crazy”, he wrote.
“The opinion of Arab citizens in most countries was and still insignificant to be taken into consideration,” he added. “How can their views be considered when they are abandoned, isolated and politically alienated in almost every country?”
The absence of that voice is perhaps why media avoids referring to a public opinion, the writer said.
* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk