x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The absence of an Arab peacemaker role

Despite the wars going on in every part of the Arab world, there has been a remarkable absence of any Arab role or effective mediation to put an end to the many conflicts, wrote Rasheed Hassan in the Jordanian daily Addustour.

Despite the wars going on in every part of the Arab world, there has been a remarkable absence of any Arab role or effective mediation to put an end to the many conflicts, wrote Rasheed Hassan in the Jordanian daily Addustour. This unprecedented situation raises a series of questions, particularly that the "fire" of these conflicts is threatening neighbouring countries.

The events in Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, Sudan and the dangerous deterioration of relations between Iraq and Syria are all situations that require urgent action to preserve the integrity of each of those countries and contain an instability that is potentially dangerous for their neighbours. So, what is the Arab League doing? Why hasn't its secretary general moved to stop the escalation between the Yemeni government and the al Houthi rebels and to avoid the looming civil war in the country?

The Arab League has also been absent from Sudan and Somalia, while it watched from afar the meeting between the Iraqi and Syrian foreign ministers in Ankara. The conflict in Yemen also calls for an immediate intervention from the Gulf countries, through the Gulf Cooperation Council, because they too are at risk. What has been done so far is not enough. The Gulf countries have the capacity for effective action that would bring the parties together and pave the way for a settlement.

After a long and painstaking campaign, the Egyptian, Farouk Hosni, failed to win the director-general seat of Unesco, wrote Yaser Saad in an opinion article published by the Qatari newspaper Al Arab. The Egyptian media is already talking about a "politicised" vote and a clear intention to discard any Arab from the position. If Mr Hosni had managed in the early stages of his campaign to gain Arab popular support by opposing cultural normalisation with the Jewish state, he rapidly lost all credit as he rushed into an apology and a fake commendation of Jewish culture.

His election as Unesco's director-general was an aspiration of the Egyptian regime in order to market its achievements among the masses and provide cover for the economic, social and political failures that have become part of its image. Arab intellectuals can in no way feel sympathy or regret for the failure of a man who has been minister of culture for more than two decades. To show a sense of western culture, he had vehemently criticised the Islamic veil and described it as retrograde behaviour. The declarations, made three years ago, might have just been part of an early campaign to win the West's support for his candidature to the Unesco post.    

When the supporters of Mir Mousavi, the unfortunate reformist candidate in the presidential elections in Iran, were calling for stopping the aid extended to Lebanon and Palestine, they were merely considered campaign slogans, wrote Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed in the Bahraini daily Al Wasat. However, the celebration of al Quds day and the banners hoisted by their supporters in Tehran confirmed the deep-rooted chauvinistic nature of the Iranian reformist trio, Khatami, Mousavi and Kharoubi. The marches revealed that these were not electoral campaign slogans, brandished against Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and the regime, but a profound characteristic of the trio's real nature.

The Iranian reformists lost twice. They lost the first time when the difference between their best-ranked candidate and the president-elect was not less than 11 million votes and lost again when they unveiled their rude chauvinistic tendencies.   But most amazing was the media coverage of the whole event. All the media repeated ready-made expressions used by news agencies supportive of the trio. Most news wires started with "tens of thousands of opposition supporters hit the streets" and continued with "protesters shouted pro-Mousavi slogans". This is yet another aspect of the reality of the media manipulation of whatever happens in Iran.

"There should always be one of them, it's OK when there is only one, the problem is when there are many". This statement was uttered in front of TV cameras by the current French interior minister, Brice Hortefeux, who was previously in charge of immigration, integration and national identity, wrote Mohammed Makhlouf in the Saudi daily Al Watan.   This requires an explanation. The minister was at a summer university and a young man, with a dark skin and obviously Arab looks, requested to take a picture with him. So, "them" means here the French of Arab origin.

The statement immediately provoked a political typhoon in the country. The opposition demanded nothing less that the resignation of the minister and on the spot. "The French cannot accept that a minister uses such a language and I will not allow racist ideas to circulate in our country", said the socialist party leader, Martine Aubry. As a matter of fact, such statements only leads to more social exclusion and introversion of the targeted community, which does not mean in any way that the majority of the French are racist.

The real issue here lies in a long history of negligence. But today in France, the issue is tackled with the utmost seriousness, with even more care and attention than some vital issues are. * Digest compiled by Mohamed Naji mnaji@thenational.ae