x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Cannibalism is not equivalent to regime's crimes

That incident involving a Syrian rebel fighter was repulsive, but isn't on the same scale as the regime's crimes. Other topics: Egypt's terrorists, and Hamas-Fatah unity.

Syrian fighter's horrible act of cannibalism can't be compared to regime's persistent brutality

"We all saw the appalling video of the Syrian rebel Khalid Al Hamad (known as Abu Sakkar) as he carved into the body of a government soldier, pulled out a piece of flesh which looked like the man's liver or heart, held it to his mouth and apparently took a bite," columnist Ilyas Harfoush wrote in yesterday's edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

"By any measure, that video showed atrocious inhuman behaviour," Harfoush noted.

Some have blamed YouTube for allowing the video, but others argue that such scenes must be circulated to shock the international community into action and expose the slow, "disingenuous" efforts of superpower diplomacy, the author said.

And, of course, he added, there were also "the sectarians" who were quick to point out that Abu Sakkar is a Sunni while the dead Syrian soldier was, in all likelihood, an Alawite; these people called Abu Sakkar's act a sectarian crime.

But how did Abu Sakkar, an otherwise moderate activist in the early months of the uprising against the rule of President Bashar Al Assad, turn into a wartime cannibal?

"News reports - including one in the UK newspaper The Independent, on Thursday - said that the man was in the forefront of protests in the district of Baba Amr in Homs, standing up against attempts by extremist Islamists from Al Nusra Front to piggyback on the revolution, and against holding banners with sectarian-tinted slogans," the columnist said.

The question about what had changed Abu Sakkar is just a fragment of a larger question, the writer said: how did the peaceful demonstrations that started more than two years ago in Deraa, with legitimate demands for political reform, turn into "a river of blood flooding the streets of Syrian cities everyday"?

"Is this horrific video going to make us forget about the fact that no party is more responsible than the Syrian regime and its repressive machinery for dragging Syrian society to these dark levels of violence," Harfoush asked.

Syrian government squads are smart enough not to record videos of all the atrocities they perpetrate on rebels and innocent civilians. But there is sufficient evidence of that they murder, torture and deface the bodies of women and children, the author said. In various instances, they have been seen dancing over the bodies of their victims or raping women in Baba Amr and Idlib.

Not being able to see regime's cruelties going viral on YouTube should not lead us to the conclusion that what Abu Sakkar did, horrendous as it is, is the most brutal crime that has taken place in Syria, he wrote.

While nothing can justify Abu Sakkar's act, the regime's atrocious precedents have created the dismal backdrop without which this might have never happened, the columnist concluded.

Talks with terrorists a 'disgrace' for Egypt

"The abduction of six security personnel in Rafah was, in itself, an evidence of the weakness of the Egyptian state. Adding insult to injury, the state is now engaging in humiliating negotiations with the abductors," wrote Abdel Nasser Salama, editor-in-chief of the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram, in a column yesterday.

Masked gunmen abducted six Egyptian policemen and border guards - in addition to an unidentified person - outside the city of El Arish in Sinai, it was reported last week.

"We are looking here at a state that is bargaining with terrorism and terrorists," Salama wrote.

"We are giving in to thuggery and gang crime … We are witnessing Egypt's worst moment ever, considering what came before and after the revolution - that is the moment of submitting to terrorism."

Ascribing the full responsibility for the abduction and the fate of the victims to the Egyptian army, the writer said it is "a disgrace for the army to make concessions and offer trade-offs as part of an effort to free them."

If those concessions are followed through on, Salama argued, Egypt can expect similar terrorist acts to become part of daily life.

"Terrorism ought to be countered with force - excessive force for that matter," he said. "If the abductors have indeed been located … their hideout must be levelled to the ground, to teach others a lesson."

Hamas-Fatah unity talks raise little hope

"Here we go again: there is speculation that the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank, have agreed to seal a reconciliation deal in three months," the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej said in its editorial yesterday.

"Reconciliation moves have lost all credibility, because those who talk about it can no longer be trusted," the newspaper said.

Similar predictions were made before, Al Khaleej said. Remember the Hamas-Fatah Mecca Agreement of 2007, which provided for urgent formation of a national unity government? Remember the Doha agreement of last year, in which both parties committed to holding general elections later that year?

Fatah, Hamas and reconciliation are nothing but a combination of words that inspires a painful sense of déjà vu, the paper said.

"The Palestinian people no longer buy into this … They have become convinced that their leaders, who are the handlers of their cause, lack commitment and honesty, but are proficient in serving their own interests and preserving their positions, perks, partisan loyalties and foreign connections."

Expect another three months of "procrastination, prevarication and stalling", the newspaper warned.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi