x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

An open letter to President Obama

In an Arabic-language paper, a Palestinian academic puts the case for the US to expedite the peace process. Other topics: Iraq and Lebanon.

"Mr Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, I hope this message finds you well, sir. You are welcome in Palestine. Your current visit to the region clearly comes at a very delicate time: the peace process has hit a wall and Israeli settlements have killed the two-state solution," wrote Dr Fahd Abu Al Haj, an Al Quds University academic, in yesterday's edition of the West Bank newspaper Al Quds.

"Israel's racist activities kept escalating week in and week out, until we found ourselves forced to live in a full-blown religious and nationalistic apartheid system," Dr Abu Al Haj wrote.

"Israel's oppression of our prisoners is exacerbating as the Israeli government continues to snub international charters and renege on its own commitments … For instance, Israeli authorities have rearrested dozens of Palestinian prisoners who were freed as part of a duly ratified prisoner-swap deal," he noted.

"Mr President, when faced with the law of the jungle and having to deal with a tremendous, racist and tyrannical power, one is forced to defend one's dignity against injustice and inhumanity. This is what Palestinian prisoners have been put through, and it has led them to go on an indefinite hunger strike, which lasted for weeks and even months.

"Samer Al Issawi is one of them, a jailed activist who is dying at an Israeli hospital as we speak after a 230-day hunger strike. This man is being subjected to forced feeding by Israeli authorities so that they can keep him alive and prolong his agony. The same happened to Al Issawi's friends, Tariq Qaadan and others, who are on an indefinite hunger strike.

"As for Ayman Al Sharawneh, he was deported to the Gaza Strip as soon as he was released [this week] after his 260-day hunger strike. This deportation process has no basis in international law.

"Despite fervent international solidarity with the Palestinian struggle … Israel still acts like a nation above the law, stonewalling international human rights organisations instead of listening to their criticism and responding to the voice of human conscience that they represent.

"Mr President, I am turning to you in your capacity as the leader of the world's Number One superpower, a nation that always preaches the values of freedom and democracy to the international community … I turn to you also because your people have been through an excruciating experience of racism.

"We all have learnt something from Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King just as much as we did from Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu and all other heroes.

"We still have high hopes that you will be one of those heroes … by taking a practical step to end the suffering of Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israeli jails."

It's time for wounds to start healing in Iraq

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.

Commenting on the occasion, the columnist Majed Arar wrote in the Sharjah-based daily Al Khaleej: "After years of a cruel siege and a series of preparatory fabricated lies, on March 19, 2003, US forces began implementing their operation to invade Iraq that culminated on April 9 with the then US president, George W Bush, declaring the mission accomplished."

Some believed that Iraq had entered a new age of democracy and public freedom. But facts proved otherwise. Iraq's new history is tainted by blood and the illusive "democracy".

Reports reveal that more than 170,000 Iraqis were killed since the invasion and that 4,000 to 5,0000 Iraqis are killed every year in sectarian clashes. Sedition is wreaking havoc across the country. Protesters have been taking to the streets for weeks calling for social equality and expressing their disapproval of the biased government's policies.

Amid all that, a number of Al Anbar tribal leaders came up with an initiative, calling for civil and military balance in the country's institutions. It suggests a general pardon for political prisoners among other social demands.

"But for this initiative to succeed in containing tensions, the political power in Iraq must come to terms with the fact that it simply cannot turn a blind eye to the protests of thousands of its citizens," the writer said.

Attack on clerics may spark war in Lebanon

The assault on Monday by a group of young Shiite men on four Sunni clerics could be the trigger that sends Lebanon once again down the deadly road to sectarian violence, the London-based newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi said in an editorial yesterday.

"Everyone in Lebanon is on edge, which justifies the fast reaction of sect leaders trying to contain the situation."

The Amal Movement and Hizbollah, both key Shiite sects, strongly denounced the assault and said all acts of violence against religious figures amount to an attempt to stoke sedition among the Lebanese.

Besides the serious threat of a spillover from the dragging war in Syria, there now looms over Lebanon the shadow of internal conflict that could bring back the horrors of the 15-year civil war, the newspaper said.

Syrian authorities threatened earlier this week to strike border areas, including Lebanese territories where groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army are believed to plan and launch attacks against the Syrian government forces, the newspaper added.

"The Syrian regime is not going down alone," it said in conclusion. "It will try to drag down other countries on the way, and Lebanon will be the first to feel the pull."


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk