x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

EU has spoken, but will it be heard?

The European Union has sent a strong message to both Israel and Hizbollah, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: an alleged Egyptian conspiracy and Iraq's fate.

The European Union has finally taken a tough stance against Israel and dealt it a most painful blow through its economy, columnist Octavia Nasr wrote in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

Last week, the EU issued guidelines to ensure that none of its funding goes to projects or institutions in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The new guidelines, which have met with outrage on the Israeli side, acknowledge the illegitimate situation of the settlements. They shed light on Israel's role as an occupation power in Palestinian territory.

"The decision was taken firmly and strategically, underscoring the European body's disapproval for the current Israeli government's approach to the decades-long conflict with Palestinians," she said.

Although the EU's announcement was expected, it did nonetheless astound many Israeli officials who responded with outdated clichés. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly condemned the decision, but his provocations went unanswered.

On Monday, the European Union took yet another significant decision by placing the military wing of Hizbollah, the Shiite-armed militia in Lebanon, on its terrorism blacklist for its role in terror plots in Europe and the Syrian war.

"The message was clear, but close attention to its detail is essential to avoid falling for distortion attempts that claim that the EU has listed Hizbollah as a terrorist organisation," she said.

In fact, the EU has made a clear distinction between Hizbollah and its military wing. In diplomatic terms, the distinction doesn't come as a coincidence. On the contrary, it is highly significant: it sends the message to Hizbollah and its supporters, including the Lebanese government, the Assad regime and Iran, that this is a unique and unprecedented opportunity for Hizbollah to become part of the international community by relinquishing its weapons.

"Hizbollah has become an integral part of the Lebanese government and a major player in the Lebanese political arena. This is its chance to reinvent itself through legitimate participation. The party's military activities will lead it nowhere but to deeper isolation," Nasr suggested.

The EU has certainly taken its time to demonstrate its serious commitment to the Middle East peace process and its readiness to play the role of the neutral mediator which the US was never able to achieve.

Nonetheless, nothing guarantees that the EU won't succumb to pressure from Israeli lobbies or that it will continue to distinguish between Hizbollah as a party and its military wing, especially if it remains active in Syria.

"Time and time again, history has proven that those who oppose peace in the Middle East are louder and more brutal than the rest," she concluded.

Egyptian paper stands by its US plot claim

"Throughout its history, Al Ahram has and will always remain the most credible, professional and objective newspaper," the Arabic-language Egyptian daily stated in an editorial yesterday, in response to staunch denials that followed its publication on Monday of a front-page article about an alleged US-Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy against Egypt, among other supposed revelations.

Between a banner headline in red - stating that Egypt's general prosecutor had ordered the detention of Mohammed Morsi for 15 days - and a series of subheadings (including "Four phone calls by the former president threw him out of the presidential palace"), the newspaper placed the following teaser: "Al Ahram publishes the details of the US conspiracy against Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood's last hours in power."

Al Ahram was established in August 1876 and enjoys a relatively wide circulation that extends beyond Egypt to the Gulf. Its editor, Abdel Nasser Salama, whose name was on the news article in question, was summoned by prosecutors for questioning over the "false claims" he had published, other Egyptian media reported yesterday.

But the paper was unabashed.

"Al Ahram doesn't lie, won't lie and doesn't need to lie," it said in its rebuttal yesterday, before concluding with: "Time will prove to our esteemed readers that what Al Ahram said was the whole truth. Wait and see."

Iraq is slowly going down the Syrian path

All eyes are on Syria and on the killing machine that has blighted the country for two-and-a-half years now, but just across its border lies Iraq, a country that is getting no real media attention and where security conditions are on some days just as bad as in Syria, the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej said in its editorial yesterday.

"All the media, political and military attention is trained on Syria, given that it has become the main battlefield of regional and international interests and strategies. But what is happening in Iraq is no less serious," the newspaper said. "Both countries are now on the same fault line."

An observer could sometimes tally more casualties - between street violence, assassinations and car bombs - in Iraqi cities than in Syria, the paper argued.

"If extremist and takfiri [those who accuse others of apostacy] groups have a role in fuelling the denominational and sectarian strife in Syria (by committing atrocities that contradict all religious and human values), this role in Iraq is actually more extensive and better structured, hence more potent, painful and bloody," Al Khaleej wrote.

Like Syria, Iraq is "soaked in blood and fitna [sedition]". In fact, the paper added, one fears that Syria and Iraq might be just "rehearsals" for a conspiracy to wreak havoc in the Arab world.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk