x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Israel's attack has already backfired

Benjamin Netanyahu is mistaken if he thinks killing children will bring success at the ballot box, an Arabic newspaper columnist says. Other topics: the Arab Sptring and Western attitudes to Islam.

Failing to realise that the world has changed, Israel's attack on Gaza has already backfired

By assassinating the Hamas military chief, Ahmed Al Jabari, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had sought to demonstrate his fighting capabilities to fellow extreme right-wingers and his worthiness of re-election at the Knesset. But his plans have backfired, putting his political career on the line, commented Abdel Bari Atwan in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi yesterday.

Defeating the Iron Dome missile defence system, the Fajr-5 rockets fired from Gaza that struck Tel Aviv, forcing a million Israelis to flee to shelters, have broken Mr Netanyahu's arrogance, rubbed his face in the dirt and reduced his re-election chances, the writer said.

Election contenders would normally compete through kissing children before cameras to win over the electorate. In stark contrast, Mr Netanyahu sheds the blood of Gazan children to maximise his chances, which is "the ugliest forms of bloody blackmail".

The developments in the Gaza Strip are moving too fast to predict the fallout. The world might wake up to Israeli tanks invading Gaza and committing new massacres; and the international community might broker a solution to de-escalate the conflict.

Yet, the first scenario, invasion, is more likely because Mr Netanyahu, along with his political ally, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, will seek retaliation for the humiliation they have suffered so as to avoid coming across as weak to the Gaza's militants, he noted.

"The biggest mistake of Netanyahu is that he has never fought a war in his life apart from the wars of words," he wrote. "He has not studied the changes that have occurred in the Arab region and the world."

The writer added: Netanyahu "did not understand that Egypt and the Arab people have changed; what was OK two years ago is not OK now nor in the future".

In fact, President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt said in his last Friday sermon in Cairo that today's Egypt is different from yesterday's, stressing that his country would not leave Gaza on its own in the face of aggression.

Egypt has dismissed all diplomats in the Israeli embassy and recalled its ambassador to Israel, and the next step might even be a practical abolishment of the Camp David Accords, he said.

Egypt's prime minister, Hisham Qandil, visited the Gaza Strip on Friday to display solidarity with the Gazans; Tunisia's foreign minister was expected to make a visit on Saturday, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan could be the next one, he noted.

Four years ago, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak pounded Gaza for three weeks, vowing to eradicate militants' rockets. And now to this end, he is making a second attempt. But he will fail again, just as he did in the first one, the writer concluded.

The Arab Spring is a long-running narrative

Many western quarters are raising concerns that the Arab Spring has turned into a fundamentalist autumn, Taoufik Bouachrine noted in an article in the Moroccan newspaper Akhbar Al Youm.

Some have warned that the autumn has sidelined the liberal-minded youth who sparked the revolutions and brought to power Islamists who are going to recreate the deposed dictatorships, this time in religious moulds, that could overturn the very few gains in women's rights and liberties left from the old regimes.

"This is a superficial analysis that reveals a remarkable ignorance of the facts regarding Arab societies on the one hand, and an obsession with Islamophobia on the other," he said.

First, the Arab Spring, like all major social transformations, is a "long-running series with multiple episodes, not a short film that started last year and now it is over".

Second, the Arab Spring is a continuing dynamism, not a turnkey solution that came with the ouster of the old regimes. It has benefited Islamists only because they were not part of the deposed dictatorships and were most organised. But this does not mean citizens will not choose other forces later should they fail to meet their aspirations.

Third, theocracy in the Arab world is highly unlikely now. This is the age of the civil state in which people, open to the culture of the global village, are no longer trammelled.

Names to recall amid East-West tension

Amid the frenzied attacks on the Prophet Mohammed and the unbridled reactions to them, it is wise to call to mind some great names, noted the Iraqi author Abdul Hussein Shaaban in the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

The provocative attempts through an insulting cartoon or a movie are completely at odds with the views of such eminent figures such as the Indian leader Ghandi, the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, the British writer Bernard Shaw, and the German literary figure Goethe, the writer said.

Goethe had a very positive attitude towards Arabic and Islamic culture. He was behind promoting the concept of "universal literature", which embodies a respect for different cultures and a recognition of diversity and human commonalities.

Goethe sought to bridge the gap between Arab-Islamic culture and the Western mind by underscoring the treasures of this culture, including the Quran and Arabic poetry.

If the Arab-Islamic world wants to stand up to extremists, bigots, racists and hate-mongers, be they at home or abroad, this kind of heritage that shows the correct human relation between the East and West must be highlighted. Such legacy, particularly in culture and literature, should be the foundation on which to build the relation between East and West.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni