Those who refuse to learn from history

The U.N. condemnation of Israeli settlements in Jerusalem, adopted by 134 states and opposed by Israel and its American ally (Micronesia was the third), is just a moral victory.

There is not much that can be done to stop building the illegal settlements. The Israeli propaganda machine has now gone on the offensive explaining the "Jewish character" of Jerusalem. The Israelis, who are masters of deceit and with easy access to the American media, are preaching their falsehood to the gullible Americans.

It should be pointed out that in the course of less than a century, the Palestinians have been reduced from being the overwhelming majority of the population between Jordan and the Mediterranean to a minority. This was done through calculated moves by the Zionists.

The fact that the United States opposes any justified Palestinian call for the statehood even in their own land and is outraged reveals America's one-sided stance in the conflict. The U.S. suggestion that Arabs should yield yet more is totally unreasonable. The existing Jewish "majority" in occupied Jerusalem was created by a policy, zealously applied by various Israeli governments since 1967.

A series of settlements was created mainly on land taken from Arab owners which raised the Jewish population to around 180,000. Har- Homa would complete the encirclement of Arab area of Jerusalem. This is a devious plan to seal the fate of the city. Every Zionist government since 1967 has declared occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Palestinians are determined in wanting it to be the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Now the U.N. vote has proven that the rest of the world is not bound to accept U.S.-Israeli assertion of Zionist mastery over the city. Both these countries should know that the fight for Jerusalem will be a long and costly venture. All they need to do is turn the pages of history. It has accounts of nations mightier than Israel and men nastier than Zionists coming to grief when they trampled truth under their feet. History is a good teacher. 

It has much to teach Arabs also. They must learn that what has brought them down to the present pass of begging and bewailing, doing nothing else, is that they failed to develop their strength.

And strength, history must teach them, does not mean missiles, nuclear arsenals and military satellites. These things are manifestations of strength. Strength is in human brain. That nation is strong which has developed its human potential. And that development can come only through education.

Arab countries haven't yet understood the seriousness of their failure. They must introduce drastic changes to their educational systems to meet the demands of a fast-changing world. The problem with Arab education is that it is in the hands of the bureaucrats who are not fully aware of the challenges their countries could encounter if the educational set up was not developed. An archaic educational system will fail to supply markets with full qualified manpower, the backbone of any socio-economic developmental process.

Experts point out that there is great dependence on quantity rather than quality. Education Ministry officials in the Arab world love to point out figures of school graduates and number of schools and colleges.

However, they fail to highlight the deficiencies in their students which make many incapable to participate in developmental projects and the building of the nation. The curriculum is outdated and while seminars and symposiums are regularly held, no serious effort is undertaken to push for collective reforms.

In the age of information technology, the Internet and a changing social pattern there should be an all out effort to develop an educational system that can take in these changes.

New subjects should be added so that future challenges and issue like environmental pollution, water scarcity, civic issues and the relationship of the citizen and the state should be made aware of within the parameters of a well-defined syllabus.

Teaching our young about their ideology should be done in a way to instill strength in their belief as they travel through the 21st century.

No change in education will result in a stagnant society. The Arabs have had enough of stagnation.

Another lesson we must learn from history is the destruction that came to those who refused to husband their natural resources. For us in the region, water is the most precious of them all. It is the basic material of all living organisms. "..We made from water every living thing" - Holy Quran 21:30. Every year, March 22 is being observed as the U.N.-declared World Day for Water. We all know that water is the very essence of life without which mankind could not survive. For long the Gulf region was looked upon as an area bereft of natural water resources. Modern technology has shown this to be untrue as potable water has been found underground. But it is not inexhaustible. In addition, desalination plants have been set to supplement natural sources.

However, in fact, there is a lot of waste. So anything that can be done to reduce consumption must be encouraged. Gulf governments heavily subsidize the utilities, so it is all too easy for consumers to forget the true cost. It is said if water was sold on a commercial basis it would be more expensive than oil. The easy availability of water and electricity to most users has meant there is wastage in some areas on an enormous scale. 

Saving water and electricity is not our neighbor's responsibility: Instead, it starts at home. As I pointed out earlier, I believe that it is high time that we in the Gulf states should start a new strategy - Save Water Campaign. Our media should also play an active role in this campaign.

Let me conclude with a relevant quote from the Holy Quran, Surat 7, Ayat 31: "O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer; eat and drink, but waste not by excess: For Allah loveth not the wasters."

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