x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Brazil's president deals Israel symbolic blow

President Lula knows very well the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and is fully aware of the oppression that the Palestinians have been subjected to.

On his recent visit to the Middle East, the Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva paid his respects at the mausoleum of the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat in the West Bank with flowers in his hand, a gesture that reflects the man's esteem for the Palestinian people and their legitimate resistance, said the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial.

This was further validated by Mr da Silva's refusal to place a wreath of laurels at the grave of Theodore Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, which is a revered diplomatic custom for eminent visitors of Israel. "The Brazilian president, who has played a big part in pushing his country forward and turning it into an up-and-coming superpower, knows very well the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and is fully aware of the oppression that the Palestinians have been subjected to at the hands of the Zionist movement," the newspaper said.

Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, couldn't get his mind around the fact that the Brazilian statesman would have that level of compassion for the Palestinians' plight, and boycotted Mr da Silva's address to the Knesset in protest. It seems that Israel has got used to world leaders applauding its attacks on Gaza and Lebanon and giving their blessings to its activities in Jerusalem, according to the editorial.

The Arab world obtained its freedom from European colonisation in the past century only to come under the thumb of the United States's indirect economic occupation. That must prompt Arab action to achieve yet another emancipation, wrote Ahmed Amorabi in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. The privatisation of national markets, which is imposed by the West on third-world countries in the name of "free market economy" debilitates governments from controlling the pace of the economy and, by the same token, relieves it from its duties to ensure elemental social services such as health and education.

The result is a division of the social fabric of third-world countries into two main strata: an overwhelming majority of indigent citizens and a scant minority of millionaires who benefit from the outcomes of privatisation. "In countries like Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Algeria, the state authority has come down to: first, adopting legislation and facilitating measures that guarantee the growth of the super-wealthy class; and second, conducting a methodical repression of the popular movements protesting the widening divide between rich and poor," the writer said. The market economy must not be dismissed in its totality. But a strong central authority - China and India are the best examples here - must always oversee the progress of its fledgling economy lest it should run amok.

When the Israelis entered the old city of Jerusalem in 1967, occupation soldiers hoisted the Israeli flag on the Dome of the Rock, inside the Al Aqsa Mosque, while Zionist rabbis scurried into the holy site, wrote Ahmed Azem in a chronicle carried by the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

Uzi Narkiss, the former commander of the Israeli Defence Force in the Central Region, declared after 30 years of war that Rabbi Shlomo Goren had suggested back then to place 100kg worth of explosives inside the mosque and have it destroyed. Gen Narkiss strongly opposed this proposal and threatened to imprison the rabbi while the latter insisted that the same opportunity would not come again. Two camps opposed the demolition of Al Aqsa: one consisted of politicians and military officials and the other of non-Zionist rabbis, the writer said.

Moshe Dayan, the then defence minister, issued an order not to put the Israeli flag in any Muslim holy site as he was seeking to seal a deal whereby Israeli sovereignty over the Wailing Wall and the Jewish Quarter would be recognised and Muslim and Christian sites remain intact in exchange. Non-Zionist rabbis, for their part, did not believe in the legitimacy of the establishment of a Hebrew state at that time, because they were waiting for signs, one of them being the return of the Christ.

The recent parliamentary elections in Iraq have given rise to the probability that the country could - certainly after a long and bumpy road - make it though to a haven of stability after all, say in the next five to 10 years, wrote Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Lebanon, in an opinion piece feature for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

Iraq would then be a semi-democratic, flourishing country at the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. If this kind of development indeed takes place, it will be a historic event in the Middle East and will have deep repercussions that would surely delight some and worry others, he wrote. "Iraq is not a small or marginal country. With its population of 30 million, its second-largest oil reserves in the world, its geo-strategic location between Turkey, Iran and the Arab world and the Gulf sea, added to its Arab-Islamic legitimacy, Iraq's future is sure to have a strong impact on the whole region."

If a democratic Iraq sees the light, even in a premature form, it will be resounding proof - in Sunni, Shiite, Arab and non-Arab circles - that democracy is possible in this part of the world. * Digest compiled by Achraf el Bahi aelbahi@thenational.ae