x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Arab Spring did bring a big change

Much of the hope of the Arab Spring has turned to dust, a columnist says, but there is one widespread, enduring change. Other comment topics: a blow to Israel, and the new isolated way of travel.

Arab Spring leaves behind hardship, but it guarantees old order does not return to region

The Arab Spring has slowly but surely drawn to a close, leaving behind harsh political and economic realities. But if anything good came out of all this, it is the fact that Arabs will no longer allow despots to rule them again, Jamal Khashoggi wrote in yesterday's edition of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

More than two years after the first spark of the revolution, President Bashar Al Assad of Syria is delusional if he thinks that his army is making progress on the ground.

Meanwhile, Egypt is burning while pundits are giving free advice to President Mohammed Morsi on how to better run the country.

In Libya, assassinations are setting a new trend. In Yemen, it's suicide attacks as usual. In Tunisia, where it all began, the coalition government is still struggling.

"Yes, the Arab Spring is over, with all its warmth and romance. It has bitterly turned the region into 'the real world': flagging economies and collapsing government institutions," the Saudi author said.

Government officials can no longer blame their predecessors for the current mistakes. Two years have passed, after all.

"Disgruntled Egyptian citizens no longer blame [the former president Hosni] Mubarak or his regime. For them, the incumbent is now accountable," the writer said.

"So the Arab Spring is gone, but the Arab revolutionary spirit lives on, with its wrath, fierceness and passion for change."

Seeing Egyptian people painting the curbs around Tahrir Square and Libyans hugging each other and sobbing in joy during the early days of Arab Spring, optimistic observers said the Arab peoples would not repeat the mistakes of previous revolutions - they would not allow one tyrant to be replaced by another.

Commentators who were rather "pessimistic" - or "realistic" - kept quiet. They knew the future would not look so rosy, but expressed their opinions cautiously for fear of being labelled as "felool" (remnants of the old regime).

"Well, these analysts can now lecture us all day long about how revolutions are, in fact, living things that morph according to intrinsic, objective laws, away from the idealism of starry-eyed revolutionaries," the author noted.

But not all is lost, he went on. Because everyone unanimously agrees that the rich legacy of the Arab Spring is a guarantee that old regimes and old tyrannies will not return to the Arab world.

Political parties may bicker for another year or two, but the real change - the psychological and cultural shift - has already taken place.

The Arab world has changed forever, for the better, the author said.

UN call for withdrawal deals blow to Israel

Last week's report by the UN Human Rights Council, urging Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to evict its settlers from the Palestinian territories, dealt a blow to Israel and its arrogant settlement policy, wrote the columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatar-based newspaper Al Watan yesterday.

"This is arguably the most honest, bold and fair report in memory on such fundamental issue as settlements," he noted.

Predictably, Israel dismissed the report as biased towards the Palestinians. Although short on execution mechanisms, the report did call for a halt to trade activities with the 350-odd Israeli settlements, which are home to about half a million Jewish settlers.

The report comes as a sign that the international community is starting to take the Palestinian cause more seriously, especially after the UN General Assembly's upgrade of Palestine's status from a "non-member observer entity" to a "non-member observer state", Hammad wrote.

Palestine's new status gives it the right to file a war crimes case against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

This report "strikes out at Israel's existential pillars, which hinge on expropriating other people's land," the writer observed. "And in doing so, it causes the Israeli state countless internal and external problems that will only exacerbate its international isolation."

Why don't I miss anybody any more?

"Seventeen years ago, on the day I was travelling to the United States to study, a large crowd of friends and family came to say goodbye at the airport. Even my father's friends were there," recalled Yasser Hareb, an Emirati writer, in the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan yesterday.

"I cried on the plane and had fever in transit from London to Washington. I found Washington to be a dry city and I had a problem adjusting to it. I often told my father on the telephone that it was a gloomy place, filled with black diplomatic cars and that it was unfit for a student."

My depression was related to my longing to go back home and meet my family and friends, the writer went on.

"Upon my return, the proverbial crowd of friends was there to greet me. Emotions were high and tears were shed."

But things have changed now, Hareb wrote.

"Today, whenever I travel, I book my flight online, I take the airport shuttle, do a self-check-in and head to the aircraft without talking to anyone. Hardly anybody knows that I'm travelling, in the first place. I spend my time abroad ... I make no calls and send no texts to anyone."

What happened?

"When did missing someone become such a backward, boring idea?"

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi