x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Russians, Americans to blame for Syrian extremists

By letting the Syrian war drag on, the US and Russia have nurtured extremism there, an Arabic editorial argues. Other topics: Israeli prisons and a meditation on cities.

Growth of extremist power in Syria is the result of Russian complicity and American reticence

March will bring the second anniversary of the beginning of widespread open protest in Syria, the onset of the civil war. For all that time the opposition has been left to fend for itself, with too little foreign assistance in the way of weapons and ammunition, columnist Mohammed Mashmushi wrote in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

All the while, Washington and Moscow reiterate their concern that authorising any kind of military aid to the opposition may mean that Syria could eventually fall prey to terrorist groups such as Jabhat Al Nusra or Al Qaeda.

Moscow and Washington "are making a big mistake not only against Syria and the region, but also and especially against themselves," Mashmushi wrote. "Their attitude reveals short-sighted, and even failed, political reasoning.

"The matter is quite clear. The longer the regime's war on its people trudges along, the more Al Nusra and Al Qaeda-like organisations will sprout."

The writer went on to opine that there would be no exaggeration in saying that the American and Russian positions on the crisis have been essential drivers of the appearance of such extremist groups: the US by failing to support the opposition and the Russians by supporting the regime.

Both powers are in that sense responsible for the continuing battles and the colossal human and material damages in the country.

For three years the Syrian people have been demonstrating their determination to persevere in their quest for freedom and their willingness to accept any assistance from any source.

During that time, extremist groups and militants surfaced in Syria, giving Moscow and Washington a convenient justification for their reticence to respond properly to the mayhem.

Syrians of all denominations and ethnicities agree that their community has never been and will never be a host environment for radical and extremist movements, especially once the revolution succeeds and the regime is replaced.

Organisations such as Al Qaeda and Jabhat Al Nusra would never exist in a civil state that rules by the codes of democracy and equality.

Since it took over power in Syria 40 years ago, the Assad regime, under father Hafez and then son Bashar, has often played the extremism and terrorism card to serve its interests.

It did so in Iraq before Saddam Hussein's fall and again in Lebanon where it sponsored the terrorist Fateh Al Islam group to perpetuate the turmoil, and then in Turkey where it sponsored the Kurdistan Labour Party in its insurgence against the government.

If the situation in Syria remains unsolved, the world can expect to see more terrorist groups take hold in the country, the writer said.

Torture is a tradition in Israel's prisons

Arafat Jaradat, the Palestinian martyr who was held for interrogation and then tortured to death by his Israeli jailers on Saturday, will not be the last Palestinian to die in brutal, arbitrary detention, the West Bank newspaper Al Quds stated in an editorial yesterday.

Between Palestinian martyrs who die of torture, those who are left to rot without medical attention and yet others who are summarily executed, Jaradat's case is sadly just one among many, the paper said.

The death of Jaradat and the Palestinian anger that followed have caused both Israeli and Palestinian officials to warn of an impending third intifada.

After a postmortem conducted by both Israeli and Palestinians doctors, the Palestinian minister of detainees' affairs confirmed that there were "marks of torture on the back … on the chest, and a deep wound on the upper side of [Jaradat's] shoulder," the editorial said.

"Psychological and physical torture in Israeli jails is not uncommon or exceptional. It is rather an established method that is as old as occupation."

Israeli soldiers do not even wait to get to a detention room to start torturing Palestinian activists, the paper went on.

"Torture starts at the time of the arrest. The detained activist is be brutally beaten in front of his family, with some of his relatives getting their share of boots and blows."

What makes a city and how can we know it?

Cities are not transient places, walls, or bright façades. Nor are they those human masses thronging streets, alleyways, police stations, hospitals, universities and offices, wrote Hamid Ankar in the Morocco-based newspaper Al Massae.

"A city is a mind, planning and philosophy," he noted.

Plato painted a comprehensive picture of his ideal city. But what makes a city a city? Is it the road we knew in childhood? Is it a cafe at the corner? Is it a map in the hands of a tourist?

Why, the writer asked, does a city lose its initial innocence when it grows bigger? Why does it lose its charm - a charm that is reduced to memories of a beautiful past? Why does a city lose its meaning in quotidian greed and geographical expansion?

Cities are the creation of men. They alone split them into maps, into some areas associated with beauty, and others with fear. In the city moves the honourable people and the hypocrites; poets and thieves; men and women; nights and days; well-guarded fancy neighbourhoods and rundown ones; peace and crime, the writer went on.

While the ideal city espoused by Plato remains just a figment of imagination, an army of humans, with their desires, keep moving under cover of paradoxes, he wrote.

* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk