x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Nationality should not overshadow identity

It appears that the Arab nations in their tumultuous political conflicts with Israel are overlooking the human dimension.

Alaa' Hleyhel, a Palestinian writer and holder of an Israeli passport, was awarded a literary prize that he was supposed to receive in Beirut. However, he was denied a visa into Lebanon as an anti-normalisation measure. Marzouq al Halabi chose to comment on this event in an article for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat. He said that the decision came as a shock, especially since the Israeli Supreme Court had intervened against the legislative authority in Israel and approved Mr Hleyhel's trip to Beirut. It appears that the Arab nations in their tumultuous political conflicts with Israel are overlooking the human dimension.

It is a shame that the Israeli court showed respect for the law of human dignity and freedom while the Arab world still fails to recognise it. "We expected that Beirut wouldn't wait for an Israeli court order and would open its doors to Mr Hleyhel and to us, as Palestinians, thus recognising our right to communicate and belong to the Arab world. We expected a recognition of our rights that transcends the boundaries of politics." It is true that Palestinians under occupations are considered Israeli citizens, but the time has come for the Arab countries to admit that they are not citizens by choice. It is time to admit that between nationality and identity the differences can be great.

In an opinion piece for the London-based newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat, Sami Shawrash, the former minister of culture in Iraq's Kurdish regional government, emphasised the tension in the current Arab-Kurd relationship.

The prevalent political scene in Iraq sees many Arab and Islamic efforts to persuade the winners in the last parliamentary elections to overcome their differences and agree on a national partnership that would culminate in a new Iraqi government in which the Iraqi Kurds would play a vital role. It is a role that the Iraqi Kurds have been serving for more than eight years, proving their importance as a major element in the national composition of the country.

However, Iraqi Kurds are feeling an imbalance in their relationship with the Arabs. Their hardships and the genocide they endured under the former regime are being denied as many consider that the guarantee of Kurdish national rights within the Iraqi social fabric would rupture the country and affect its Arab character. "Is the Arab-Kurd relationship disintegrating?" The Middle East is home to more than 30 million Kurds distributed among four countries. "To ignore this large group and turn a blind eye to their rights and sufferings would pave the way to a destructive dissolution of historical relationship, which should be avoided."

"The US seems to be stuck between two opposing forces: Israel and Iran, and both play their cards subtly. But this does not mean the US is getting weaker or becoming reluctant to take the leading role in international affairs," wrote Youssef al Kuwailet in a lead article in the Saudi Arabia newspaper Al Riyadh. The US is adopting rather a soft power approach as an alternative to military action or psychological pressure.

When dealing with Israel, the US has frequently faced a conflict over Middle East issues, as Arab countries grow less confident in the potential role the Americans can play as peace mediators. As Israel continues to implement its unpopular policies, many across the Muslim world started to look at the US presence in the region as undesirable because of its biased attitude in favour of Israel - a situation that greatly affects its vital interests.

With Iran, the US stance is still unclear because its long-term interests outweigh any rash decision to use force to abort Iranian nuclear ambitions. The Americans seem to be patient, looking forward to any changes affecting the Iranian politics. This is perhaps why the Americans are opposed to the Israeli plan to strike Iran. Both countries are preventing the US president Barack Obama, from focusing on other hot spots like Iraq and Afghanistan. They also put into question the feasibility of his soft diplomacy.

For almost one month to date, one of Arab literature's most prized jewels, One Thousand and One Nights, has been under attack, reported Abdul Hamid al Ansari in an opinion piece for the Emirati daily Al Ittihad. Many Arab and international writers were influenced by this literary work of art that has influenced both the East and the West alike. Nevertheless, the masterpiece is under threat nowadays in Egypt. Lawyers are asking for a ban on the book, claiming that it is offensive to public decency and promotes moral corruption.

This is not the first time that the book has fallen under scrutiny. It was confiscated in 1985 under similar claims. However, the court of appeals at the time dismissed the case, stating that One Thousand and One Nights has captured people's imagination for centuries and it is a treasure of folk literature. Furthermore, it was a valuable source for many magnificent works of art all over the world.

"The court ruling, 24 years ago, should have been upheld and this abhorrent habit of confiscating books must cease in this new age of knowledge which abolishes all barriers and impediments." * Digest compiled by Racha Makarem rmakarem@thenational.ae