Last week, Egypt was celebrating the 40th anniversary of its October 1973 war against Israel.
The war was a landmark event that must prompt all Arabs today to re-evaluate the image of President Anwar Sadat, the man who led the Egyptian army – alongside the Syrian military – as it stripped Israel of its sense of invincibility, wrote columnist Hazem Saghiya in yesterday’s edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.
Forty years is more than enough time to justify a historical reassessment, the writer said, particularly given the gravity and complexity of the regional events that followed the war – from the civil war in Lebanon, the Iraq-Iran war and the Iraqi invasion of Iraq, to the signing of the Oslo Accords, the advent of the Arab Spring and the resurgence of political Islam.
Sadat, who was, ironically, assassinated in 1981 while reviewing a military parade commemorating the October War, moved from pan-Arab “hero” to virtual “traitor” when he made peace with Israel in the late 1970s.
“It is hard to keep maintaining a rigid stance on Anwar Sadat and his legacy, especially since the bulk of the hatred that was dished out to him was fomented by regimes that have either fallen or are falling apart, like the regime of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq and the Al Assads in Syria,” Saghiya wrote.
The ferocious battle that these Arab leaders waged against Sadat had no other goal but to divert attention from the repressive realities in their respective countries, he argued.
But what did Sadat do that was so wrong?
During a pivotal time in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, his approach was threefold: First, he wanted to recover the Sinai Peninsula from the Israelis, who had occupied it in the June 1967 war.
Second, he was convinced that the joint forces of the Egyptian and Syrian armies, backed by Arab oil, would be able to launch a crippling attack on Israel in a way that would pave the way for the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict; and third, he understood that no lasting peace in the Middle East could be achieved without the United States.
“This was Sadat’s plan and he put it into action,” the writer said. As a result, Egypt was kicked out of the Arab League and slighting Sadat became “a national sport” in most Arab countries, especially after his visit to Israel in 1977, leading up to the Camp David Accords.
“Sadat had drawn a road map, one that we might admire or abhor depending on emotions that each of us has inherited on their own,” the writer said.
“But that road map was at the time the only way to bring an end to conflict and to regain occupied territory.”
Arab elites must rise above the old clashes
The Arab Spring is not over; the people who rose against corruption and tyranny will soon take matters into their own hands and are not going to let the Arab world plunge back to square one, noted Abdelali Hami Eddine in the Moroccan newspaper Akhbar Al Youm.
People aware of the history of human revolutions explain what is going on in the region as natural setbacks on the path to deeper change, Hami Eddine said.
“The new political values that have become entrenched in people’s minds cannot be erased by the current attempts to militarise the collective consciousness and promote the notion that this is ‘the best of all possible worlds’.”
The Arab world has seen more than two decades of “secularist-Islamist dialogue”, and there is a significant legacy of conferences, debates and publications on the concepts of pluralism, civil states and peaceful alternation in power.
And yet, political players of all stripes have failed to live up to the people’s expectations, with some parties seeking military support to fight their rivals.
While Islamists in power must be criticised and prompted to rethink their outdated outlooks, rivals should not bet on defeating them by undemocratic means.
Arab elites must rise above the political clashes left by the old regimes and work towards establishing new political traditions to build modern democracies on new grounds, the writer said.
No hope for Libya with the absence of state
Two significant events took place last week in Libya that merit a closer look, wrote Abdullah bin Bajad Al Otaibi in an opinion piece in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.
The first one, the writer said, was the kidnapping of Abu Anas Al Libi from his home in Tripoli by US special forces, due to his alleged participation in the bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and the second was the kidnapping of Libya’s prime minister, Ali Zaidan, from his hotel room in the capital, before releasing him a few hours later.
“These two events are worth contemplating and analysing,” Al Otaibi wrote. “In the first event, the ‘state sovereignty’ fell, and in the second one, ‘the authority of the state’ fell.”
The writer added that any discussions that refer to “institutions” in the country, whether government, parliament, army or police, mean nothing on the ground. “Armed groups are still the most dominant, and the members of these groups entered the country’s new ‘institutions’ but they maintained most of their allegiance to their original armed militias.”
In this context, stability in Libya will be extremely difficult because it lacks state institutions that can establish balance or maintain control over the country.
* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk