x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Region's shared culture does not translate to politics

It is hard to hold on to the idea of an "Arab umma" as people of region fail to agree on key issues, says an Arabic language columnist in today's roundup of regional opinion. Other topics: Israel and Syria, learning from tragedy in Al Ain

It is hard to hold on to the idea of 'Arab umma' as people of region fail to agree on key issues

"We share the same history, speak the same language, practice the same traditions and customs and adore religion in the same way. We even become religious fanatics to the same degree, and share pretty much the same worldview.

And yet, our differences are just as intense as our care for one another," wrote Mohammed Al Hammadi, an Emirati columnist, in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

"We're alike in just about everything, but poles apart when it comes to politics," he said.

This raises the question whether our land is still an "Arab umma" - an idealised transnational motherland.

To be sure, differences within the so-called Arab world are not new. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was one of the most divisive events ever happened in the region in recent memory, the writer noted.

At that time, Arabs were divided between those who supported the offensive led by the then president of Iraq, the late Saddam Hussein, and those who sided with the Kuwaiti people, who are celebrating these days their liberation from Iraqi occupation.

The other major event that drifted Arab governments apart was the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Al Hammadi wrote.

"Here again, Arabs differed on whether Saddam should be unseated or not," he wrote.

"The truth is, Arab nations are drifting further away from each other, to the point where they sometimes stand diametrically opposite one another."

Take, for instance, reactions to the Arab Spring.

Arabs and their governments could not agree on whether some uprisings were legitimate "grassroots revolutions", or just foreign-backed "chaos".

Even before 1990 and 2003, the decades-old "Arab-Israeli conflict" - which is a misnomer - could not get the Arabs united against one enemy, the author said.

"Of course, all Arabs agree that Israel is an occupier of an Arab territory, and that it is a racist intruder in the region," he wrote.

"Yet, that does not translate into an uniform way of tackling this intruder. Some Arab nations categorically reject any engagement with it. Some of them are its friends, while others are ready to develop ties with it."

Another key issue that sums up the deep political and strategic rifts within the Arab world is Iran, the writer noted.

"Arabs just can't get to a unified stance on Iran, despite Tehran's repeated meddling in the affairs of Arab nations. That is despite its known involvement in attempts to destabilise certain Arab countries."

So, are we still one umma? It doesn't seem that way, Al Hammadi concluded.

Israel's raid marks new post-Assad strategy

Israeli analyses on the operation by Israeli air force within Syria last week - which Israel refuses to officially acknowledge - reveal crucial information on the objective and timing of the operation, said the columnist Randa Haidar in the Lebanese newspaper Annahar.

Reports in Israel emphasise that the attacks were aimed at testing its deterrence capability against Hizbollah and preventing it from acquiring any advanced weapons that could break the balance of power that has been in place since the 2006 war in Lebanon.

The aggression targeted a convoy of lorries loaded with the SA-17 Russian-made missiles which Syria had acquired recently and which was on its way for delivery to Hizbollah in Lebanon.

"But how can the timing of the attack be explained, knowing that Israel admits that weapon smuggling has been going on since 2008?" the writer asked.

The raids confirm Israel's growing fear of weapon smuggling to Hizbollah and, more importantly, of the possibility that the armed opposition in Syria would gain control over the regime's arsenal, which would jeopardise its security. This denotes a new Israeli strategy.

"Israel's interference in Syria puts it in a confrontation not only with the Assad regime and Hizbollah, but also with the armed opposition forces in Syria," the writer added.

Accident underlines need for more checks

The tragic accident in Al Ain that left 24 labourers dead and 22 injured, was the worst in the history of the UAE, wrote Sami Al Reyami, the editor of the Dubai-based newspaper, Al Emarat Al Youm.

In a comment article, he said: "We are not pointing fingers at any one, but the dreadfulness of the incident requires a meticulous investigation by the relevant authorities, so that they can take measures to ensure that it does not happen again. The authorities may even require to formulate new laws. They can force companies to adopt advanced safety measures for heavy vehicles, even though that will increase companies' expenses. But lives are more important than any expenditure on road safety," Al Reyami wrote.

The tragedy confirms the need for a careful study that would enable the Ministry of Interior and police departments throughout the UAE to ensure that lorries, and buses, as well as transportation companies, are closely monitored.

Additional inspection into specifications for heavy vehicles and stricter registration procedures for them are a must, the writer added.






* Digest compiled by Translation Desk