x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Talks must follow Gaza's historic day

It's not enough for Hamas and Fatah supporters to stand beside each other, their leaders must enter into dialogue, a commentator says. Other subjects: Lebanon and Syria, and an Al Azhar television station.

It was "a historic day by all measures" when hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents flocked to Al Saraya Square in the heart of the city on Friday, waiving emblematic yellow flags and chanting resistance tunes in celebration of the 48th anniversary of the Fatah movement's founding, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi said in an editorial.

Such a huge Fatah rally hasn't happened in the Gaza Strip since 2007, when Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian factions, parted ways following elections won by the latter.

Now, this huge rally is "the headline for a new phase of Palestinian national unity" and "a major step on the path of national reconciliation", the newspaper said.

Reconciliation between the two factions, shepherded by various Arab players, especially Egypt, has repeatedly failed to materialise, leaving the Palestinian leadership divided.

By allowing the rally to take place on its territory, Hamas has shown a "great sense of responsibility", the paper noted.

"Hamas did not only sanction the organisation of such a big, extraordinary celebration, it also took part in it, with Hamas officials standing side by side with their Fatah counterparts, who crossed the borders into Gaza Strip to attend.

"The fact that hundreds of thousands rallied in this celebration should not be seen as an endorsement of Fatah alone, but rather as a popular referendum that said 'yes' to Palestinian national unity and 'no' to bickering and stalling."

The rally also comes as a reaffirmation of resistance as a viable option, the paper observed.

"Indeed, celebrating the birth of the Fatah movement is a celebration of the first bullet aimed at the occupation, and is also a reassertion of the Palestinian right of return and the recovery of all Palestinian territories from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River."

Undeniably, Fatah has offered thousands of martyrs in its struggle against Israel, not to mention its numerous militants who are still held in Israeli jails, the paper said.

Now, this rapprochement between "the two main poles of the Palestinian equation" is a clear indication that both sides are willing to "turn the page of squabbles and start a new page of mutual understanding and coordination".

Note that Hamas flags were also flapping all over the West Bank last December when the Islamist movement celebrated its 25th anniversary.

This said, more concrete efforts have to be made on the path of reconciliation, the newspaper said in conclusion.

These celebrations must lead to senior-level meetings between the two factions in order for them to start over on solid grounds and pre-empt a not-too-unfamiliar relapse.

Lebanon misjudged the crisis in Syria

Ghazi Al Aridi, the Lebanese minister of public works and transportation, wrote in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad that his country had largely miscalculated the possible ramifications of the conflict in Syria.

More refugees fleeing the war zones are crossing into Lebanon, and their numbers are exceeding what the small, politically hot-tempered country can handle.

"In Lebanon, Syria is in every street corner. The situation in Syria is imposing itself on everyone," he wrote. Yet since the start of the Syrian uprising, there was "an error of judgement".

"There was an error in reckoning the meaning of the events, their dimensions and time frame. In a society living through a deep division along political lines, there were only two camps [on the Syrian question].

"One camp oversimplified the issue and smugly ruled that the regime would have the upper hand in a matter of days. The second camp resolved that the opposition would prevail quickly."

Both were wrong.

"The crisis endured, and the results of that misjudgement and mishandling are weighing heavy on Lebanon now, threatening its security and stability," the minister said.

"We didn't know how to act. Worse still, with petty calculations, emotional responses and grudges, we further deepened [our] internal division, hurting our country and people."

An Al Azhar channel would be welcomed

It was recently announced that Al Azhar, the top institution on Sunni jurisprudence, has plans to launch a satellite channel to counter extremism and the seditious agendas of many channels that lay claim to Islam today, according to columnist Khairy Mansour, of the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

The project for this station is years overdue, he wrote.

"A channel carrying the name of Al Azhar would embody restraint and moderation … and stay away from politicking, indoctrination and fanaticism," he noted.

"If there are dozens of stations that show Islam and Muslims from a certain angle, according to sectarian and denominational agendas, one channel with the credibility and legacy of Al Azhar would eclipse all those that seek to manipulate people's minds."

In what is "a forest in which one feels lost", Al Azhar's brand would bring clarity, he wrote. "Al Azhar's wealth of scholars and researchers … will guarantee the cultural and religious quality of the product of this channel, not to mention the institution's standards and guidelines."

Satellite broadcasting would offer Al Azhar a new platform to defend the higher values of tolerance and inclusion, while allowing it to revive the correct uses of the Arabic language, the author concluded.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi