x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Missiles in Gaza cause disarray for Israelis

Israel has the most to lose in the current conflict, a commentator writes. Other topics: "God-fearing secularism" and Copts in Egyptian film.

Missiles in Gaza are causing disarray among Israelis

Gaza's rockets put everyone, in and outside the region, in a difficult and unexpected bind, wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi.

"We are witnessing an accelerated race on two parallel courses. The first aims to reach a truce to stop the bloody Israeli raids in return for a halt in rocket launches from Gaza; the second represents the land invasion of Gaza that is expected to happen at any moment," said the writer.

"Notwithstanding the outcome of the present escalation, [Israel president Benjamin] Netanyahu would still be the biggest loser," he added.

Mr Netanyahu's mistake, explains the writer, is that he miscalculated the situation just as did his predecessor Ehud Olmert in 2006, when he directed his tanks towards the south of Lebanon, and in 2008, when he raided Gaza.

The writer compared Mr Netanyhau to a gambler trying to compensate for his losses by raising the stakes, only to lose everything in the end.

In this sense, Israel is likely to expand the scope of the war by resorting to a land invasion.

Amid the confusion, the Arabs don't know what to do. As usual, their meetings and resolutions carry no real leverage on either side of the conflict.

"Israel is shaking with fear because the decision to shell it with Palestinian, Iranian and Russian-made missiles doesn't come from the Arabs. It is the sole decision of independent Palestinian resistance factions," the writer added.

The US, despite its explicit support for Israel's "right to self-defence" in this war, has been frantically attempting to mediate a solution that would bring about a ceasefire.

"Arab mediators who are enjoying the sudden US interest in them must side with the interests of Arabs in general rather than the interests of Israel and the US. This means that they shouldn't be seeking to make financial or political gains at the expense of the martyrs in Gaza," Atwan went on to say.

Any ceasefire agreement at this point must be conditional on an immediate lifting of the siege on Gaza and a halt to settlement building, as well as the release of thousand of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

It is Mr Netanyahu and his government that are in a weak position, the writer said. Pressure should be exerted on them, not on the Palestinian side.

US president Barack Obama's blind support for Israel in this aggression on Gaza is an affront to the Arab world and to the Arab leaders he is contacting to mediate for self-restraint on part of the Palestinians.

He knows only too well that the unarmed Palestinians who are getting slaughtered every day by US-made bombs and aircraft are the ones that must claim self-defence, not the other way around.

Secularism can also be 'God fearing'

The concept of "God-fearing secularity" can gain approval in the Arab-Islamic environment, suggested Syrian writer Nabil Ali Saleh in an article in the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad yesterday.

This concept means that the state be at the service of individuals away from the direct influence of those clerics who profess to have a spiritual authority over people, or be the sole religious reference qualified to interpret this religion or that doctrine,

Religion must not be monopolised or used in transient political wrangling. Rather, it must belong to the entire nation, offering motivation for greater human contributions in tune with the public interests, the writer said.

The concept of "God-fearing secularity" is particularly crucial in the Islamic world because of the negative connotations Islamic societies associate secularism with. The common people usually construe secularism as a call for atheism, which is rejected by the majority of Muslims.

Secularism emerged in Europe in response to an oppressive clergy. But western secularism would not be acceptable in Islamic societies for no revolution is needed against "the clergy" because their authority is not admitted in the first place, he wrote.

This concept has already some roots in the Islamic legacy. If properly adopted, it could help fix the Arab malaise because even if the current reform revolutions succeed, success will be only partial without a cultural revolution.

Ruling makes Coptic characters a taboo

In Umm Ratiba, a satirical story by the late Egyptian writer Youssef El Sebai, a would-be-wife demanded that her suitor, Sayyid Bangar, change his name to a nicer one before she'd tie the knot.

The man filed an application requesting his name be changed to Ali Bangar, thinking Sayyid was the problem not Bangar, wrote movie critic Tarek El Shenawi in the Cairo-based paper Al Tahrir.

Film director Amr Salama dealt in a similar fashion with Egypt's film censorship board that had turned down his latest film Lamoakhzah (Excuse me).

The movie tackles the sensitive issue of the relation between Muslims and Copts. It tells the story of a Christian middle schoolboy whose teachers and peers think he is Muslim because his name is both Christian and Muslim.

"Thank God we're all Muslims," the teacher says after reading all her students' names, making the boy worried about revealing his faith.

The director resubmitted the script with the disputed scenes watered down and a new title, Second Year of Middle School, and the censors approved it.

The writer asked: "Why does the government deal with this issue with such rigidity?" This hypersensitivity seems only to add fuel to fire, making Coptic characters a taboo.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk