Forget Israel: Arabs are their own worst enemy

Oct 11, 2012

Opinion digest: the way forward for Arabs, a 'respectable' near-death experience, Malala Yousafzai

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"Who is the real enemy of the Arab world," asks Abdulateef al-Mulhim, a former commodore of the Saudi Navy, in The Times. Many Arabs would say it is Israel: they are wrong. Israeli planes and tanks have attacked Arab countries, but these do not match the atrocities currently being committed by some Arab states against their own people. "In Syria, the atrocities are beyond imagination. Aren't the Iraqis the ones who are destroying their own country? How can children starve in Yemen if their land is the most fertile in the world?" The life expectancy of Palestinians living in Israel is far greater than in many Arab states "and they enjoy far greater political and social freedom". The real enemies of the Arab world are "corruption, lack of good education, lack of good healthcare, lack of freedom, lack of respect for human lives and, finally, the many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people".


"Have you ever noticed that more people come back from Heaven than from Hell," says Colin Blakemore, a professor of neuroscience and philosophy, in The Daily Telegraph. We have all read those astonishing reports of near-death experiences. "The majority of NDE-ers have been dismissed by sceptics like me." But NDEs have taken on a new cloak of respectability with a book by a Harvard doctor. Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander, will make your toes wiggle or curl, depending on your prejudices, as you read about his encounter with flocks of transparent, shimmering beings. "What Dr Alexander and his PR people claim is that his description of the afterlife is more authentic because he is a neurosurgeon." But when there is no evidence except the word of the beholder, a scientist's accounts are no more reliable than those of anyone else.


"Because the state of Pakistan allowed the Taliban to exist, and to grow in strength, Malala Yousafzai couldn't simply be a schoolgirl who displayed courage in facing down school bullies but one who, instead, appeared on talk shows in Pakistan less than a year ago to discuss the possibility of her own death at the hands of the Taliban," says Kamila Shamsie in The Guardian. It's only right to acknowledge that if different decisions had been made about Pakistan's history the men issuing statements justifying assassination attempts on a young girl would also have been doing something else with their lives. For political differences, seek political solutions. But what do you do in the face of an enemy with a pathological hatred of woman? What is it that you're saying if you say (and I do, in this case) there can be no starting point for negotiations? I find myself thinking of our leaders, do any of you know the way forward? Today, I'm unable to see it. But Malala, I'm sure, would tell me I'm wrong. Let her wake up, and do that.

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The unspeakable atrocities committed by Arabs against other Arabs is, as the author rightly says, the real problem that the Arab world needs to address. Lack of education and the central role of oppressive and backwards religion contributes to the popular feeling that their "bad luck" can be attributed to the West or Israel/The Jews, continuing a blame culture that seems to be used as an excuse not to sort themselves out.

This shouldn't be used by any means as an excuse for people to defend brutality against Arabs by any other nation however. Peace between Palestine and Israel should always be sought as a priority, and Israel should be commended, as well as notable Palestinians, for their efforts to end a decades old conflict rooted in deep and complicated religious beliefs and grievances.

Aside from this, Arabs and Arab countries must recognise that there can be no happiness, no "godliness" no aim achieved through a culture that perpetuates mistakes that are experienced over and over again.

You can tell a lot about a person by who they choose as an enemy, and weather it is the Arab world choosing to fight Israel, or the Taliban fighter who shot Malala Yousafzai in the face, both show an inability to recognise the real problem, externalising an internal problem, attributing it to a religious cause and facing it with violence.