x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

A battle over power

Disagreement over how to handle an electricity crisis in Gaza is threatening to damage Palestinian unity, an Arabic language editorial says. Other topics in today's Arabic opinion roundup: no justice for victims of sexual assault, and restoring glory to Bahrain.

Electricity crisis in Gaza threatens to do permanent damage to Palestinian reconciliation

A gruelling war of words between Hamas and Fatah has dominated the Palestinian scene last week, culminating in thousands of people taking to the streets of Gaza on Friday and calling for "uncovering the conspiracy" that has left the Gaza Strip in a near-total blackout for weeks, according to an editorial in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi this weekend.

The Gaza Strip has been "in complete darkness and life on the street ground to a halt" due to the lack of a fuel by-product that feeds its power stations. Reports on Friday said that limited amounts would be allowed into the territory, which should alleviate the crisis temporarily.

Hamas, the ruling faction in the Gaza Strip, accused the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) of "conspiring" with Israeli, American and Arab officials to tighten the siege on Gaza in order to bring down the sitting government there, according to the newspaper.

Khalil Al Hayya, a senior Hamas official, went so far as to say that he had "official documents" pertaining to this conspiracy, which Hamas would render public in the near future.

"Exchange of accusations between Hamas and Fatah is nothing new," the newspaper noted. "But this time, it comes barely several weeks after the two sides had signed an agreement in Doha towards consolidating their reconciliation."

Under the deal, Hamas and Fatah, who fell out in 2006 after the former won legislative elections in Gaza, agreed to form a national unity government led by Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah and the president of the PA.

"It is not clear yet whether the PA has a hand in a conspiracy intended to leave about a million people out of electricity - an accusation that the PA's spokesman has denied," the newspaper said.

"But the real takeaway from this exchange of accusations … is that the much-trumpeted reconciliation has completely collapsed. In fact, the discord between Fatah and Hamas has now become deeper than what it used to be before the reconciliation deal."

The rival factions may forget it sometimes, but this is sad news for Palestinians everywhere.

"The Palestinian people, who have hailed the reconciliation as a rescue buoy from a state of division and disintegration, will be greatly disappointed," the paper went on.

So much so that the effects will be felt in the long-term as well. Palestinians will lose all faith in similar deals, should one ever come up in the future.

We've said it many times before, the paper recalled in conclusion: "Trying to reconcile Fatah and Hamas is like trying to mix oil and water. At the end, oil will remain oil and water (will remain) water. And it doesn't really matter which is oil and which is water."

'Honour' for victims is archaic view of justice

Amina El Filali, a 16-year-old Moroccan girl, was made to marry the man who raped her. By virtue of an archaic provision in the Moroccan penal code, a rapist can avoid prison by marrying his victim. The idea is that, through marriage, the victim's "honour" will be restored. The girl committed suicide earlier this month.

In a comment article for the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad, columnist Saad Al Ajami questioned this obsessive need in Arab societies to "cover up" abused women, even when that cover will all make their lives more miserable.

"All women seem to need sitr in our social customs," the columnist said.

"Sitr" in Arabic literally translates as "cover" or "concealment", but concretely it refers to the idea of having one's honour preserved - even if that entails a painful process.

"In Arab society, a woman cannot achieve sitr without marriage, especially if she had been raped. So the rape victim, whose body and humanity have been abused, has yet to face a society that looks down on her."

And part of that society is her family too, the writer added, who would do anything to stave off "the shame and the opprobrium" of having a raped daughter.

The man, on the other hand, walks free, perhaps even proud of his masculinity.

Bahrain can recover its 'paradise' recently lost

Thousands of years ago, the Sumerians used to refer to Bahrain as "Delmon", which in their language meant something like "paradise", wrote Mansour Al Jamri, editor of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat in a column yesterday.

The Sumerians used to believe that the sun rose from Bahrain. "They used to bring their dead to Bahrain for burial because they believed that our country was the heavens, where even the dead can have peace of mind … But what if the Sumerians were to come back to see where we are today?" the editor asked.

Bahrain was rocked in February 2011 by protests said to be led by the country's Shiite majority demanding more social and economic rights from the ruling Sunni establishment.

There are serious efforts made "to clear the air" and find a way out to national reconciliation, the editor said. "But the problem is that there are also efforts from the opposite end, as some still champion unsound practices - the same practices that have brought us to where we are now."

If the Bahraini people want to recover that Delmon glory, albeit symbolic, they have to engage in bona fide talks, the editor argued.




* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi