The enduring winter of our discontent

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Al Jazeera, Arab World, Journalists Views: 7309
7309

Over ten weekly programs -- broadcast on Al-Jazeera from 7 July to 9 September -- Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, the Arab world's most celebrated commentator and political analyst, took incisive stock of a new, tumultuous stage in Arab history. Below are transcribed excerpts 


APPEARING ON Al-JAZEERA: I think it best to begin by answering two questions. The first is how it came about that I'm here today; the second is what do I have to say?

About a year ago, after completing the final article in a series on the American Empire, I took leave of my reading public. I stressed then that by leaving I did not intend to mean retirement. Rather, I wanted to distance myself from the current situation as much as possible...

After having taken my leave I began to think about the many invitations that had been extended to me. I confess I had a hard time knowing which to accept. My first preference, of course, would have been Egyptian television, but I fully appreciate that Egyptian television has to deal with particular circumstances, is governed by certain policies. That left the Arab television networks. I am not overly particular about the place in which I speak but the question remained -- where?

One day I picked up the morning newspapers. They all carried on their front pages Bush's appeal, or address, to the Arab world in which he tried to explain -- or at least contain Arab anger over -- televised images from Abu Ghraib. Then, as I glanced through the rest of the front pages I came across an item reporting that Bush had stated explicitly that he did not want to appear on Al-Jazeera. It was his only condition. So I think it was Bush -- and I'm extremely grateful to him for this -- who made up my mind. Anywhere Bush thinks inappropriate is precisely the place I imagine any Arab -- and I'm just one of many millions -- would immediately think, well, that's the place I want to speak in. I got in touch with my publishers in Cairo -- Dar El-Shuruq -- and told them, let's go for Jazeera.

I agreed that we should begin with some episodes on the current situation for several reasons. First, we have a complex in the Arab world over how to deal with the US; second, because of the crisis in Iraq; third, because we have an intractable problem in Palestine and lastly because we are facing the danger of erosion at the fringes of the Arab world, as events in Sudan clearly demonstrate.

'Nobody in Iraq came out to defend the old regime. But it wasn't Iraqis who toppled the statue of Saddam in Baghdad. An American plane brought 250 men from a Gulf capital to do that... as much as people may have disliked the former regime they did not want it replaced by an occupation force.'

ABSENCE OF THE ARABS: We are entering a new phase in the Arab world and it is vital we take stock. What I see happening is that Arab countries are adopting a position of me first. Jordan is saying it, Saudi Arabia is saying it, Egypt's saying it, Lebanon's saying it. Each is shrinking from the regional arena, bolting the doors of their own houses and, in the process, creating a vacuum. And when I read the news and connect the dots a clear picture emerges: conflict in the region over the next ten years will centre on the race for regional domination. And Arab countries have withdrawn from this race: from behind locked doors they are saying, look, this isn't my problem, I'm just staying at home and I don't have anything to do with what's happening outside. So who is left in the region? If I read the signs right, and I'm willing to bet that I do, the next ten years will see a head to head competition between Israel and Turkey.

From the days of Bandung and the founding of the Non-Alignment Movement to the creation of the Organization of African Unity, indeed, through the whole national liberation era the Arabs had a voice in the world and it rang loud and clear. So what happened? Why was India suddenly reproaching us, asking us what was going on? We used to be the closest of allies, said the Indians. We progressed together step-by-step in terms of industrialization, trade, scientific research, arms manufacture, aviation. The list goes on. But then came a time when you said the East wasn't important to you any more, that what was important to you was the West. 

And take our relations with Russia, which are incredibly peculiar. The former Russian prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov, once pointed out to me that our countries used to be friends and that Egypt fought the October War armed entirely with Russian weapons. Then, as soon as the war ended, Moscow discovered that Egypt had shifted towards America. Primakov made it clear that he was not objecting to the choice, that he understood Egypt's circumstances. What he couldn't understand, though, is why we had thrown in our lot with the Americans to the exclusion of all other parties. His point was that, as in personal relations, countries can be friends one day and break up the next but it remains important to maintain a degree of credibility in relations, even if they are antagonistic.

Some Arab countries acted even more strangely, providing the Americans with secret information on Soviet weapons. The Americans were quick to let the Russians know that American planes had flown to Arab capitals to pick up Russian tanks, such as the TU-62, and transport them back to the US so that they could be taken apart and analysed piece by piece. We also provided the Americans with samples of the Russian anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles that had worked so well during the October War.

In embracing the American option so exclusively we turned our back on the rest of the world. The Africans parted ways with us early for reasons I don't want to go into here. But Asia, Europe and a wounded Russia also reproach us. Yet in spite of this the world still has to deal with us because we are important. We are important historically because of our geographical location, whether we control it or not, and because of our contributions to civilisation. We are also important economically, because of the enormous oil reserves on which the world will depend for the next 50 years. And we have been doing our best to keep prices low and supplies steady. But there is a huge difference between dealing with us for historical, strategic and economic reasons and dealing with us politically. And the world, quite simply, does not want to deal with us politically.

A senior UN official recently told a number of Arab diplomats during a meeting at which I was present that the Arabs were no longer political players, neither on the world stage nor regionally, at either an individual or collective level. And the reason that this has happened resides in our inability to reform in order catch up with the rest of the world, our failure to even examine our own flaws and take the initiatives necessary to overcome them. 

I don't think anyone has paid sufficient attention to the recent G8 statement and its various appendices on reform in the Arab world. It addresses parliamentary, legal, judicial, educational and media reforms and reforms in the fields of women's rights and human rights, all of which we need and want. But what is significant is that it allocates certain responsibilities to certain nations. France, for example, is to oversee administrative and judicial reform in Syria, Italy will be responsible for the judicial system in Afghanistan, the UK is to take on reform of the Arab media with the BBC working in conjunction with the Arab League to offer training courses for Arab journalists, etc. In short, reform in the Arab world has been divided into regions and areas of specialisation with responsibility distributed among G8 members. 

They also want other countries to take on specific responsibilities, particularly those Arab countries presumed capable of undertaking certain tasks. Egypt, for example, is supposed to assume a responsibility in Gaza, but given the nature of the situation there Egypt can play only a security role. And the obvious question is, just what kind of security role? Certainly it is not a question of protecting the people of Gaza. It's far too late for that. They've been bombed, their homes have been demolished, their leadership decimated and the notion of secure borders is laughable. What Gaza needs is massive reconstruction and development, which is beyond Egypt's capacities. 

So there is no realistic role Egypt can play in Gaza. And the Arabs are no longer players because they've all withdrawn behind their borders, leaving the field open for the forthcoming competition between two NATO members, Israel and Turkey. In such a situation I have no objection to Turkey leading the [Organisation of the] Islamic Conference. I can't accept, nor can I possibly imagine, the whole region, from the Mediterranean to the Gulf, being at the mercy of Israel.

RELATIONS WITH THE US: How to deal with America is an incredibly difficult problem, one compounded by America being in a permanent state of flux while the Arab world is rooted in place. Just think, the ruling powers in Saudi Arabia, i.e. King Fahd and Prince Abdullah, have been conducting their country's business with Washington since 1975. The end of the Cold War triggered immense changes elsewhere in the world but not here. The Arab world has had no Prague spring, no velvet revolution such as that in Eastern Europe. No Berlin walls have come tumbling down, no borders have changed. There have been no violent upheavals nor tranquil transitions. Everything is as always. The Arab regimes that dealt with Nixon and his secretaries of state and defence, his security adviser and CIA chief, are the ones that have dealt with presidents Ford and Carter, with the Reagan administration for two terms, with Bush senior and junior and, between these two, with two terms of the Clinton administration. 

This makes for a far from balanced equation. The Americans are constantly changing, and it is not just the faces in power that alter but world views and schools of thought. We, meanwhile, remain immutable. What happens when an inert element and a very volatile one get together to talk? Next to nothing. They hardly take the trouble to get to know one another.

Unfortunately there is little more to say on the subject of dealing with America. Why? Because this unprecedented world power is both extremely aggressive and here to stay for a long time. The 19th century belonged to Europe. The 20th century emigrated to the US. The basic conflict today is whether or not the 21st century will stay American.

UNDERSTANDING THE US EMPIRE: The shark is the closest thing I can think of in describing empire. In London's Natural History Museum the plaque describing the shark sums up its behaviour in four words: search, attack, eat, escape. But the American empire is of a somewhat different order; it has grown into a shark that doesn't want to eat just fish, it wants to gobble up the entire ocean. For the first time in history we face something that possesses the means, the power, the psychology and the requisite experience to allow it to do just that. Which is why, in order to understand what is going on in the world today, in Iraq, in Gaza and elsewhere, we must take a much closer look at that creature on the other side of the Atlantic. 

America hardly attracted the best sorts of people: the immigrants were a hodgepodge of malcontents and adventurers, refugees from starvation and poverty and from various forms of religious, sectarian and class persecution. Suddenly this potpourri of humanity had before it a land of immense wealth and immense opportunity, and they began to think that this could not be a coincidence. But these newly arrived immigrants to the American continent also discovered that others already lived there: the way they dealt with them set the pattern for their later dealings with the world. While still a minority they sounded an evangelical call, telling the natives they had come to live by their side and help them towards civilisation. Then as they grew more powerful they took up guns, built fortresses, occupied land and occasionally said, okay now, let's negotiate. It is a pattern America's new diplomacy follows, or at least that diplomacy that goes by the name of preemptive war. Saddam might not have had WMD but he had a programme for developing them, so we had to strike first to keep him from developing that programme. The excuse might be new but the reasoning is old; its roots lie deep in America's legacy.

Shortly after the June 1967 War King Hussein went to US President Johnson to express his concern over the West Bank, which Israel had just occupied. At the time the UN Security Council was discussing the wording of Resolution 242, prohibiting the seizing of land by force. President Johnson's response was simple: Your Majesty, he said, there are only two ways to occupy land, either by force or by buying it. I've been to Israel and I saw for myself that it didn't have sufficient strategic depth at the point between the Jordanian border and the Mediterranean -- only some 15 to 18 kilometers. Israel had to expand its waist. How was it supposed to do that? You come and repeat to me all that rigmarole the British are writing about not occupying land by force, and I tell you that there are only two ways to occupy land, either by force or by buying it.

Johnson here was speaking from the depths of the American psyche: his words reveal an American way of justifying and doing things.

NEW EMPIRE: The US is heading in a direction at odds with its history, and possibly with the future of the American empire. 

If anything defines the growth of imperial America it is war. The first war had as its aim the conquest and settlement of land. The enemy was identified as the "red Indians" and its allies were those European powers that dispatched settlers through various means, ranging from inducement to coercion. There was a goal to be achieved, a specific enemy to face, and friends and allies to depend on. And, in the end, there were spoils that could be held up to justify, or at least pass off, whatever lies had been told, whatever abuses of human rights committed, whatever atrocities perpetrated along the way.

The second war was one of colonisation and with it came the most horrendous crime in history -- slavery. In the space of two and a half centuries the US shipped over 60 million slaves from Africa, half of whom died en route. To be fair, slavery existed in the world long before America did. But never before had slavery been institutionalised on such a scale, and with such cruelty.

Then came the American civil war. The conventional view that the war was fought to free the slaves is simply false. The declaration of emancipation was issued during the third year of the war, and its purpose was to deprive the south of its means of production. It was the equivalent of today's destruction of a country's economic infrastructure by aerial bombardment. In this war, too, principles were espoused to cloak naked interest though undoubtedly there were those whose sympathy was attracted by the call to emancipate slaves or to unify the country.

And now, for the first time in its history, America has embarked on the strangest war conceivable, its so-called war against terrorism. For the first time America has pitted itself against an enemy that cannot be identified, and that cannot be geographically pinpointed. In WWII America knew precisely who it was fighting and why it was fighting them. Defeating Germany was a legitimate aim, and the conflict was over who would inherit an old empire and take the helm of a new one. But in the war against terrorism you cannot identify, at least not with any precision, what motivates the enemy. You cannot assess his sources of strength or calculate when and where to strike your enemy. You cannot even determine where he is. You don't know how to deal with this enemy at all, because this is an enemy of a completely different order, not only because of the reasons above but because he is also prepared to use the crudest means possible and to blow himself up in the process. So here we have this incredible military machine, with all its weapons and state-of-the-art technology, up against a hungry, barefoot body ready to do anything and sacrifice everything. In spite of the former's vast material superiority, in this war different criteria for victory and defeat are at work. The poorest, the most underdeveloped party has the capacity to inflict the greater damage.

THE PROPITIOUS IMPERIAL MOMENT: Iraq is central to the area bounded by the eastern Mediterranean, the shores of the Black Sea to the north, the shores of the Caspian to north east, and to the south by the Indian Ocean and its Arabian Gulf and Red Sea extensions. This large patch of land, which touches upon four or five international navigation routes and which extends from the Caucasus in the north through Iran and Iraq and on down through Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to Oman, contains 70 per cent of the world's oil. In addition -- and this is very important to the US -- this area represents the centre of the world.

'The American empire has grown into a shark that doesn't want to eat just fish, it wants to gobble up the entire ocean. For the first time in history we face something that possesses the means, the power, the psychology and the requisite experience to allow it to do just that.' photo: AFP 

America's propitious imperial moment presented itself with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the reshaping of the international order. The area described above would form the general background, with Iraq cast as the primary target.

It looked like it was going to be smooth sailing. Occupying Iraq wouldn't cost much because the country was worn out and materially depleted after its military adventures against Iran and Kuwait and after the long international blockade.

The stage had been set long ago. After emerging victorious from WWII the US set its sights on the legacy of the old colonial powers and got down to work. After NATO had placed Europe under its wing it moved on to south-east Asia, and then attempted to penetrate the strategic depths of the Mediterranean basin. American fleets helped link the land bases: the Sixth Fleet was in the Mediterranean, the Fifth in the Indian Ocean, the First in the Atlantic and the Second in the Pacific. These fleets contained enormous aircraft carriers: they were, in effect, land bases with their enormous arsenals transplanted to the sea, while actual land bases had been established in every corner of the globe. Then the imperial moment arrived, the moment America had been planning for.

However, a problem presented itself. The US was now being ruled by the strangest administration in its history. It is Washington's sloppiest administration yet, from the president down. Never before in American politics have the personal interests of officials been so enmeshed with policy. Nearly everybody in the administration has been involved in the petroleum industry. President Bush is quite possibly the last person one would dream of as being appropriate to this imperial moment. Just listen to what he has to say about himself... but then no one ever claimed intelligence as one of his strong points.

As early as 1992, early in Clinton's first term of office, during a UN session attended by Clinton himself, the Americans read out a statement prepared by the National Security Council and the State Department. The statement was the first time that preventive intervention, in the form of preemptive strikes, was cited as a legitimate means for maintaining peace. It insisted that national sovereignty was an outworn concept and that those countries that sought to maintain peace had the right to assess whether there was a potential danger lurking inside particular states and, if necessary, invade in order to neutralise that danger.

IRAQI RESISTANCE: Nobody in Iraq came out to defend the old regime. But it wasn't Iraqis who toppled the statue of Saddam in Baghdad. An American plane brought 250 men from a Gulf capital to do that. The statue might have toppled anyway. In Europe -- in Warsaw and in France after liberation from the Nazi occupation, and even in Germany after the fall of the Nazi regime -- statues were taken down because they were symbols that had to go. But in Europe this was linked to popular liberation movements. In Iraq the situation was different, because as much as people may have disliked the former regime they did not want it replaced by an occupation force. Unfortunately for the Americans the ruling group, the imperialist clique that was running the war, was utterly insensitive to the fact that there might be something called Iraqi patriotism. I wouldn't want to suffer the humiliation of a foreign occupation, especially one imposed so crudely, and especially when those who claim to have come to liberate me are the same people who have been starving me to death for ten years.

The initial response was a variety of forms of spontaneous resistance. But there was also resistance that seemed to have a more cohesive form. This resistance began by targeting American forces and then began to mount operations that seemed very strange. Many were shocked by the bombing of the Red Cross headquarters: the Red Cross, after all, was there to help the Iraqi people. But there was a logic behind these operations -- they were intended to strip the occupation forces of any shreds of international legitimacy. Also, by forcing the Red Cross to leave Iraq, American forces were left alone and isolated. America's few remaining allies, such as France, Germany and Russia, had no intention of getting bogged down in Iraq. 

The Americans wanted Arab countries to send interrogators to Iraq. But, stranger yet -- and this is a phenomenon that has been noted by reporters and commentators -- even before the Americans, themselves, began to torture Iraqi and other prisoners, those they suspected of having links with Al-Qaeda or other terrorist networks would be sent to certain Arab, and some non-Arab countries, for interrogation. These places were given carte blanche in the methods they used, and the methods are unimaginably cruel. Among the places selected for this purpose are Cairo, Amman, Rabat and Damascus. They are places that have made an art of interrogation.

After a while, as America's death toll began to mount in Iraq the army began to farm out work to security firms so as to keep lists of American losses as short as possible. According to the president of a country close to the scene official casualty lists issued by US command represent about a quarter of the number of Americans who have died. US command is not obliged, for example, to announce the death of green card holders who volunteered to go to Iraq in exchange for obtaining naturalisation papers. Many of these have died in Iraq, or else fled to Jordan. According to Jordanian figures some 760 Americans went AWOL via Jordan alone. 

PALESTINE -- CAUSE OF THE 21ST CENTURY: Palestine, in my opinion, is not just a matter of what happened in the past. It is, perhaps more significantly, a question of the future. Palestine will be the cause of the 21st century, or at least of its opening decades. 

Right now it appears that the Palestinian cause is in its last desperate throes, and that Sharon has achieved all his aims. When Sharon came to power his objective was to eliminate the vestiges of the Palestinian cause and wipe out the remnants of Arab resistance. He combined military strikes with various forms of pressure and, today, we are left with only a few pockets of resistance. Any Israeli prime minister can get what he wants if he can ensure that he has four factors in place. He must have the military power to implement the Israeli project, a supportive and pliant public opinion, the support of the military establishment and, most importantly, the support of the US. Any Israeli prime minister who can guarantee these four conditions -- and Sharon can -- is able to do whatever he wants. That is unless we stand up and resist, and I'm not referring here to the peace process or to "salvaging what can be salvaged".

THE FOUNDING OF ISRAEL AND THE NEED FOR ARAB SECURITY: Israel was created in our midst for a reason. The reason became apparent as early as Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, at which time he proposed a project to settle Jews in Palestine. Napoleon realised that in order to control the eastern Mediterranean it was vital to drive a wedge between Egypt and the Levant, and that the wedge had to be in Palestine. Napoleon was the first European to call on Jews to settle in Palestine, part of his strategy to block Britain's route to India.

The idea of promoting a Jewish settler drive in the area to serve colonialist strategic aims did not die with the end of the French expedition. Britain took up the cue during its incursions into the Ottoman Empire. By this time a Jewish group -- later to be called the Zionist movement -- had emerged determined to capitalise on the potential symbiotic relationship. It knew that any humanitarian appeal for a refuge for the Jews in this part of the world wouldn't get them very far, which is why they played relentlessly, and very explicitly, on the theme that they could help secure the region for Britain.

In correspondence with the British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston in 1840, following the defeat of Mohamed Ali's forces in the Levant, Lord Rothschild argued that if Britain wanted to secure its position in the Levant and to establish a stake in the Ottoman Empire it should turn its attention to the Jews because they were the only group who could play a strategic role in the region and take on Egypt. It was Mohamed Ali, rather than Napoleon, who had driven home the message that control over these two centres of the eastern Mediterranean -- Egypt and the Levant -- was integral to the any Arab national project. So, Rothschild wrote to Palmerston, help us set up colonies in the area and promote a settler movement and thereby establish a physical barrier to any future designs Mohamed Ali might entertain of extending Egyptian control over the Levant.

The Jewish settler movement was, then, driven by two motives. One was to solve the Jewish problem in Europe, the other to prevent the Arab world from uniting its forces, which entailed keeping the northern and southern parts of the eastern Mediterranean apart. 

"From the days of Bandung the Arabs had a voice": Nasser, Arafat and King Faisal in the last Arab summit before Nasser's death September 1970 (photo: Hassan Diab) 

With the resurgence of Arab nationalism in the 1950s there surfaced a drive for some form of Arab unity. In the midst of this Arab foment the recently founded state of Israel provoked a state of alert that extended well beyond Palestine. Arab governments, and many people, imagined that we had gone to war in Palestine in order to help our Palestinian brothers in their time of need. This may well have been partly the case, though in a larger sense there was a profound feeling in the Arab world that a grave peril was taking shape. The Arab world was looking for a way to unify, to cement bonds in a manner that would help promote our common interests and collective security. Yet right there, smack in the middle, was Israel, a formidable physical barrier between the Levant and the rest of the Arab world to the east, and the Nile Valley and North Africa to the west. Moreover, the peril was growing. Israel had set its sights on the whole of Palestine.

Following the creation of the state of Israel we instituted what we called "the cordon" of hostile nations surrounding it -- Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Israel could have tried to break through that cordon but in doing so it would have risked a regional war. Beyond the cordon we attempted to prevent Israeli attempts to penetrate Turkey, Iran, India and Ethiopia. 

Some might suggest I give Israel more credit than is due and I grant that Israel could not do everything alone. But when it has the American Empire behind it then its project becomes feasible. No sooner had the Cold War drawn to a close than Israel was chopping at the bit to get into the Caucasus, into Iraq and Iran, and into India, offering Washington its services as a military arm, reconnaissance agent, anything just to get in there. The Israeli project for the 21st century is not restricted to Palestine. This is the peril. If we let Israel have its way, once it buries the Palestinian cause it will move the front eastward beyond Jordan to Iraq, Iran, the Gulf, the Caucasus and to the borders of India. In fanning out in this way Israel will avoid Egypt entirely -- Egypt is, regretfully, expected to reorient itself towards Africa -- and it will sidestep Syria, which is wedged between Israel and Turkey and therefore in no position to obstruct Israel's eastern drive.

ISREAL'S SETTLER DRIVE: The Israeli settler drive is the backbone of the Zionist project, its route to annexing land and seizing natural resources. In 1967 Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. We must bear in mind that in 1948 Israel occupied 78 per cent of Palestine, so the territories it occupied in 1967 represent the 22 per cent that remained. However, unlike in 1948 when Israel took the Arabs by surprise, this time the Arabs remained on guard, pursuing various forms of resistance to prevent Israel from swallowing up the last 22 per cent. 

The timing of the settler drive in the territories occupied in June 1967 is important. In December 1967 Tel Aviv introduced a law concerning the administration of Jerusalem but the settler movement only really began in February 1974, after the Arabs announced that the October 1973 war would be the last Arab-Israeli war. This requires pause for thought. The first settlement projects began in a totally new climate. It was a time that held the prospect of peace, a time in which people, such as President Sadat, actually believed peace could be achieved. We had forgotten that the Israeli project was much more ambitious than carving out a patch of land in Palestine. Israel was there to serve as a tool, as a junior partner, in a much vaster enterprise. The second settlement programme kicked off in 1977, the year of Sadat's visit to Jerusalem. The third began immediately in the wake of Oslo. A few too many coincidences, perhaps? 

The more the Arabs demonstrated their willingness to make peace, the more they departed from what they called their fixed principles, then the bolder Israel became. Between 1967 and 1973 Arab armies, battered as they were, remained determined to go back and fight, and they continued to build up momentum until ultimately they succeeded in executing that master stroke in October 1973. Throughout this interval there was sporadic talk in Israel about the Elon project to create some six or seven settlements but no one dared lay a brick. But from 1974 onwards, with each step the Arabs took towards peace, so Israel ratcheted up its settlement drive. 

THE COMING PHASE: So now, in Israel, we have a man, Sharon, who is like a bulldozer, destroying and killing everything in his path. What are we supposed to do? They tell us that Gaza is going to be a part of the roadmap. Who do they think they're fooling? The conflict that is going on today is not over Gaza. These are just the remnants of a cause Israel wants to settle once and for all, so that it can move on to the next phase.

Certain Arab governments are being used in order to give Israel a free rein to press forward with its main project, which is to break through the cordon within the framework of an imperialist project extending from the Caucasus to the Indian Ocean. Just as the map reveals that this area sits atop an enormous sea of oil, it shows that Jordan and Iraq will be the platforms for this imperialist thrust eastwards. Fortunately, there is still a major impediment, which is the Iranian regime, which is why I am surprised by the virtually total boycott of Iran that continues till today.

When Perez came to Egypt recently he spent half the time in his meetings with Egyptian officials trying to drum up antagonism against Iran. It's curious how friendly the Arab world was with Iran in the days of the Shah, who was a friend of Israel's, and how hostile it was towards the Islamic revolution, in spite of its enmity towards Israel. The last time I saw Khomeini he asked what more the Arabs could want from him. He had expelled the Israeli diplomatic mission the Shah had allowed and given their premises to the PLO. He made Arabic Iran's second official language. What more could we have asked for? When we think about Iran we must bear in mind the cordon around Israel, and the broader belt beyond that, intended to limit Israel's influence from spreading. 

Some Arabs believe that Israel will give up Gaza, reach a solution over the West Bank and then settle down. But Israel has a different project, and one it is capable of pursuing because it is part of something larger. Meanwhile, we stick our heads in the sand and appear to have forgotten that there was a logic behind Arab national security. Okay, the old model of Arab security may no longer be workable, but then come up with a new one. Is there such a thing as Arab security or not? And if not, then tell me exactly where the national security of Egypt, or Syria, for example, ends. 

POPULATION AND RESOURCES IN EGYPT: Egypt has a development crisis, a crisis in progress. At one stage Egypt was being promoted as the tiger on the Nile. Then, suddenly, we woke up from all the hype and began to notice that things were not quite as rosy as the name implied.

We are now told that there are two basic problems: too many people and too few resources. But it is not true that we are facing a population explosion in Egypt. According to the latest report from the Egyptian Institute of Population and Planning, population growth in Egypt fell from 2.2 per cent to 1.8 per cent. Any government has to justify its existence on the basis of its ability to solve the problems of its people. And there is nothing new about population growth. There is a difference between searching for causes and searching for excuses to cover up failure. You exercise power on the assumption that you understand the problems and are capable of solving them. If you then turn around and say you neither understand them, nor are you capable of solving them, then what business can you have staying in power?

As for resources, it is an issue that demands official investigation. Over the past 30 years Egypt has been the world's largest recipient of foreign aid. Non-repayable loans, gifts, and other forms of financial assistance, have reached some $150 billion. 

Sometimes we forget that Egypt still lives on revenues from the High Dam and the Suez Canal. So what did we do with that $150 billion? After the October 1973 war and the major shifts in Egyptian policies the world wanted to support a new beginning for Egypt. The Arab world, too, wanted to express gratitude to Egypt and Syria for their efforts in that war. Between 1974 and Sadat's visit to Jerusalem Egypt received some $22 billion in Arab aid. This aid dropped off following Camp David -- at least officially, though a lot continued to come in under the table -- and then it picked up again. I know we have spent considerable sums on development needs -- an estimated $12 billion went into the development of urban infrastructure and the metro cost $6 billion. Maybe, some time in the future, an independent agency will come and conduct an audit. Maybe they will be able to tell us where all the aid went, how it was spent, or whether it's still floating around somewhere. But the point I want to make here is that we can't pin our lack of progress and development on population growth, or on the shortage of resources.

Translated by Peter Daniel

Source: Al-Ahram


  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Al Jazeera, Arab World, Journalists
Views: 7309

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HUDD FROM CANADA said:
Mr Igor Natshev, this is all what you could come up with after supposedly reading it? I'm disappointed in you as a fellow countryman. Once, somebody argued that there were not 6 million Jews exterminated but around 1 million only. My answer to him was: the act is not horrifying due to its number, but rather to its means. I have to tell you the same thing about the black slavery. Although, personally, I believe that the number of the exterminated Jews was blown up like probably the number of the black slaves shipped over to US, I tell you, the numbers don't play a role here. The action does, and the philosophy promoting such bestial deeds, like those in exterminating the indigenious population of Palestine by the Zionists, or the murder of innocent civilians in Iraq. What does it matter whether are in the thousands or tens of thousands, what's horrible is that it happens. But you, my compatriot, are mad for other comments in the article. However, those facts were so obvious that you could not challenge their validity. But you know what? I do not believe your source either. How come that from 300 000 slaves they built a new country from them Liberia and the millions of blacks today in US that are descendants of the slaves. You mean to say, 300 000 slaves multiplied like flies on a dung field? Get out of here and get a life! The black slaves of America were subjected to mulnutrition, torture, indiscriminate killing and systematic controll after Abe Lincoln. Probably your roots are shallow in Canada, you would know that this great country saved a lot of them through the underground railroad. I'm really ashamed of you, son, playing with numbers. If one man was forced to be a slave and humanly degraded as they were, and that person was you, you would dismiss the millions. Yeah, your skin is closer to you than that of millions. Like a true Canadian, I invite you to have empathy for others as this country teaches you!
Peace out!
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IGOR NATSHEV FROM CANADA said:
The US shipped over 60 million slaves from Africa? And where did the author get this number? As everbody knows, Most slaves went to Brazil, and most of the slave trade was done by Portugal.

Here are the numbers by slave-trading country from http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/slavetra.html:

Portugal/Brazil: 4,650,000
Spain: 1,600,000
France: 1,250,000
Holland: 500,000
Britain: 2,600,000
U.S.A.: 300,000
Denmark: 50,000
Others: 50,000
Total: 11,000,000

I've seen similar numbers elsewhere. The US moving 60 million slaves is insane.

Finding one made up fact makes one think that all of the others are probably made up as well.
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JEFF FROM UK said:
Israel is a failed nation, barely surviving even with help of massive injections of US taxpayer's money.

Judasim is a distorted religion which has been "revised" and "re-edited" so many times over the centuries that it has more to do with the whims of the rabbi elite than any Godly-scriptures.

The creation of Israel was based wholly upon "proofs" derived from the Torah, yet most Jews that infest Israel are completely secular and ill-religious in nature. This begs the question of how they can lay claim to this Land based on religious texts when they don't actually give a damn about this same religion?

The IDF's greatest claim in militray warfare is in designing an MBT which has a rear exit door so that the crew can escape when they soil themselves against stone-throwing children. Real hereos - Israel's best.
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YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
While I remain in favor of the article's presentation, as a technical matter the facts concerning the American Civil War would not support the assertion: "The conventional view that the war was fought to free the slaves is simply false."

It is actually not quite that simple. The fact is that various efforts to abolish slavery were very much among the causes for the American Civil War. Considerable tensions had resulted from the actions of anti-slavery "terrorists" such as John Brown. Southerners had (accurately) complained that wealthy New England bankers, industrialists and religious-leaders were funding such acts of "terrorism". Sound familiar? South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, was in fact following through on its threat to do so if Abraham Lincoln (the anti-slavery candidate) was elected President. God willing my point here would be that to deny virtue, simply because it seems inconsistent with a particular argument the Muslim is hoping to make, is not sound thinking - in my view.

On that note: Israel's top military prosecutor has opened an investigation into a platoon commander whom soldiers accuse of emptying an ammunition clip into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl. The issue surfaced when soldiers - who serve under the commander - told Israeli newspapers and TV reporters about the incident. Astaghfirullah! (Alhamdulillah.)

Blessed Ramadan
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YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
I apologize for sharing the following view so close to Ramadan. I am not saying that the economic embargo against Iraq was ever justified. I merely happen to think that such things as embargoes are too similar to oppression to be considered proper courses of action. Surely, I am forgetting many things in what I am saying but hopefully - if I have something of value to contribute - the reader would extract it (from whatever I am saying) and make some improvements on it insha'Allah.

Embargoes are acts of war that can be continued for decades simply because they don't seem like acts of war to those who are possibly made more secure by them (maybe - maybe not) but are otherwise unaffected by them. My point would be this: rather than impose a "peace time" embargo lasting for generations, better I think would be a war (even if it looks like a war) lasting for no more than a few years.

If the Saddam Regime was a threat to world peace then potentially there would have been some logical reasons behind imposing an embargo on Iraq. As I have tried to say, I don't buy into prolonged embargoes - because grinding a people into the dust is not a proper course of action, for instance, simply because it avoids the shedding of blood - in my view.

I am of course a political animal so here is another point - insha'Allah - for the reader's consideration. Regardless of who's father initiated what became a prolonged embargo, if an embargo was "worth" imposing then perhaps the son who waged war so that it could be quickly ended might perchance be blessed with some manner of virtue. (Insha'Allah, insha'Allah.)

Wassalaam
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JOSH FROM UK said:
Yohan, Israel is a terrorist state, no amount of lies and spin will ever change that. As long as Jews engage in terrorism, they will remain hated and rightly so.
As for your biblical fairy tales...most of the people in the world arent enamored with trithiest armageddonist nonsense, so grow up and realize that time will deal you and your type a crushing defeat, one which will be divinely ordained.
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DARYL FROM USA said:
Always our fault? Guess 9/11 was our fault too. One thing this helped me decided. Vote BUSH!!! Pass the word. Talk to the US. Don't think you can intimidate us into anything. We may argue and fight amoung ourselves, but attack us and we are like ants. Stinging anything that moves.
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M TEGTMEYER FROM USA said:
I agree with your view of America and its imperialistic course
right now but I think that your opinion is just as skewed by your
environment. Everyone is self-righteous in terms of their cause/
country and how other should be behaving; you are no different.
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YOHAN DAHAL FROM BHUTAN said:
The article is well-worded, appreciable pile of facts and assumptions. However, it has cunningly bloomed against Zion that was for hundreds of years lying desolate. The real people to whom the land was given have to come, reign and enjoy the fruits of the land cherishing the divine values and virtues that the heathen world tramples underfoot. The Mohammedans with their sword have failed to turn lost mankind to the fold of monotheism. Israel once again takes on the musical chair at last without competitor. Much of the Israelis are yet to be found, in the valley of the dead. When they come up and life is breathed in them, they will be a huge crowd for the land (between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates) to bear....

They will not cause sorrow to the world but will be a blessing to the race of mankind on center of the earth. Then will be fulfilled the promise of Almighty God to Abraham "In your seed shall all the families of mankind on earth be blessed". That seed happens to be Y'Shua the Messiah that Israel as a Nation Officially rejects to this day. The remnant (at least 144,000 of them, 12,000 from each tribe-Joseph with double share and Dan missing) of those who pass through another holocaust will turn to Him, be saved and spread the message of peaceful reign of God that will cause the Nations to beat their swords into ploughshares. The Nations will not learn warfare anymore thereafter.

For this fact, any community of mankind on earth should not view the consolidation of Israel in the ancient land of promise as a threat. It is rather to be received with gratitude with a thankful heart to God seeing the fulfillment of later days prophesies in the Holy Land. We only desire banishment of ungodliness from Jacob (which is due to unbelief in the Messiah- Y'Shua), not Jacob himself.
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LEEA FROM FINLAND said:
The article is very good. Good descriptions on the past and the present.
I myself have wondered many times that why don't the muslims join forces? It seems that under their feet is billions of gallons of black gold -from Kazashtan to Nigeria and Sudan and in every Arabic country between. With a wealth like that and with joined forces the alliance would be of such magnitude that Eu and US would have pay attention to their concerns. The all of the economic problems could be solved so easily with little cooperation.
But like the article says the biggest problems is that the ones who rule spend all the wealth and the ones who want easy life want to rule, so from where will the citizens find the leaders that will really change the status quo instead of just talking about it?
I think the best solution would be Islam, because that is something in common and a good basis of reforms. I don't mean the 'fundamental' kind of Islam, like in Afganistan before, but the kind that would make political and social reforms. Islam that takes care of the weak and the vulnerable, women, children and the elderly people. But until now the leaders in arabic and muslim countries are just interested in their own wealth and growth.

I hope Egypt will finally get the change in 2005 presidential election and the next leader will try to join the forces with other arabic countries, because that could be the start of change. Ofcourse nothing can be done until something also happens in Arabic peninsula and in Gulf countries.

I have also noticed the lack of response in Europe for the atrocities in Palestine. Sharon is making a big magic trick, like in all magic there's nothing magical about it. He just waves the road map and Gaza in our faces and takes the land he wants from other places. There's no doubt about he will rebuild the demolished houses in Gaza for Israelis as soon as there is something to turn our eyes away from the area. God help the palestinian people in their sufferi
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YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Highly informative. I had no idea that Napoleon fathered the mother of all resettlement programs.
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