x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

All eyes on Syria, none on Gaza

The tumult in Syria is good cover for Israel's latest Gaza bloodshed, an Arabic-language editor writes. Other topics today: Obama's irresolution and the upcoming Baghdad summit.

Israel's new victims in Gaza go unnoticed as the world gives undivided attention to Syria

The "massacres" that Israel is perpetrating in Gaza these days, killing unarmed civilians including children, sit at the bottom of world news bulletins as if they were minor events involving negligible victims, wrote Abdelbari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in his front-page column yesterday.

On Sunday, Israeli air strikes killed a 12-year-old boy and two other Palestinians in Gaza, bringing the death toll to at least 18 Palestinians in three days.

We're talking here about "unarmed human beings … who are already besieged in a wretched strip of land, without electricity or water," the editor said. Yet the world is too busy to take notice that they were killed.

"It seems that they aren't even worthy of a single word of compassion, or even a most understated denunciation of their slayers."

Victoria Noland, the spokeswoman for the US state department, could not bring herself to express any regret for all those innocent Palestinian deaths. Which is not really a surprise, the editor said.

The most pressing thing for the US (also known as "the leader of the free world") was to condemn "the terrorists" (also known as "freedom fighters") who launched rockets from the Gaza Strip into the south of Israel, in a desperate show of their resolve to defend their territory against the attacks of Israeli pilots on Gazan activists.

So, on one side, you have a few short-range Palestinian rockets "that killed nobody", the editor argued, and on the other side , "the blood of children and shreds of their bodies that were torn apart by refined US warplanes".

As uneven as it is, he went on, this situation is cause for great US concern over "the safety" of residents in southern Israel, as Ms Noland stressed.

"Palestinian martyrs don't seem to pique the curiosity of US officials any more," - or of Arab officials for that matter.

All the world's attention these days is trained on the hundreds of victims falling in Syria, which gives Israel a window to trample on Gazans with complete immunity.

Turks, Europeans, Americans and Arabs are all busy holding conferences on Syria, as they did for Libya not too long ago, which is all well and good.

Now there is a debate on whether to arm the Free Syrian Army, a group of army defectors and rebels leading the charge against the repressive regime of President Bashar Al Assad. Why not arm the people of Gaza?

Why doesn't Gaza elicit the same excitement? If it's all about the numbers, more Palestinians have been killed over the decades than people of any other Arab nation.

"Just how many more martyrs should go in Gaza before anything moves? One thousand? Two thousand? A million? Please advise," the editor concluded.

Obama's irresolution is all about his election

Russia isn't the only power to blame for the continuing crisis in Syria. The Obama administration takes part of the blame too, suggested Tariq Al Homayed, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"President Barack Obama is missing a golden opportunity to get rid of Bashar Al Assad, one of the biggest hurdles for stability in the region," he said. "It is clear that he isn't concerned with the region's security; he is more preoccupied with his re-election campaign at the moment."

The US administration blames the opposition and the regime equally for the turmoil in Syria. It pressures the opposition to unite while it is well aware that such a feat requires international support and serious action rather than empty statements.

The present US administration is known for its misreading of events in the Middle East. Washington officials say that Al Assad's regime is still strong. Washington is aware of Iran's endless support to the regime via Iraq. This in itself makes defections of Syrian officials even more difficult. They have nothing to depend on especially with Obama rejecting the possibility of arming the opposition.

"How could military units defect in their entirety when there is no buffer zone to guarantee the protection of defectors and help them regroup?" asked the writer. "If the Obama administration wants to see sizeable defections, it has to take a serious position."

Historic challenges for Baghdad summit

The Arab summit to be held at the end of the month in Baghdad will be intense, due to the numerous regional and international challenges, the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan said in its editorial.

The first of these challenges will be the repercussions of the Arab Spring that have affected a number of regional regimes and led to sharp recessions in several countries.

These countries require stronger Arab economic cooperation to remedy the severe economic woes they suffered during long months of protest and turmoil.

The divided political situation in the host country is also a challenge. This is the time for Iraqi parties to come together and try to unite in order for the summit to succeed and achieve its goals.

The Palestinian situation will be among the summit's priorities.

Palestine continues to suffer from internal divisions that only add to their plight as Gaza finds itself once again an easy target for Israeli aggression.

"Many challenges threaten the Arab region: Iran's nuclear programme and its threats to the region's security will be discussed at the summit, in addition to the Syrian issue with its regional and international ramifications," said the paper.


* Digest compiled by Translation Desk