VOICES FROM THE ARAB PRESS

A weekly se­lec­tion of opin­ions and analy­ses from the Arab me­dia around the world

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THE ARAB WORLD AND THE PAK­ISTANI IS­SUE

Al-Eti­had, UAE, March 3

It is clear that the Saudi-Emi­rati ap­proach to sup­port Pak­istan falls within the vi­tal Arab in­ter­est in a stronger re­la­tion­ship with this great Asian Is­lamic power

The UAE made an im­por­tant diplo­matic achieve­ment last week by help­ing con­tain the se­vere cri­sis that un­folded be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan. The in­ter­ven­tion of His High­ness Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Com­man­der of the UAE Armed Forces, played a piv­otal role in sav­ing South Asia from a dev­as­tat­ing and im­mi­nent con­flict. The suc­cess­ful UAE move fol­lowed an im­por­tant visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mo­ham­mad bin Sal­man to Pak­istan, which re­sulted in the sign­ing of eco­nomic agree­ments worth 20 bil­lion dol­lars and the in­crease in Riyadh’s loans to Islamabad.

This en­abled the new Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter, Im­ran Khan, to over­come the se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial cri­sis he faced when he came to power last Au­gust. It is clear that the Saudi-Emi­rati ap­proach to sup­port Pak­istan falls within the vi­tal Arab in­ter­est in a stronger re­la­tion­ship with the great Asian Is­lamic power sit­u­ated in the midst of the Eurasian sphere. While Pak­istan’s re­gional con­flict with In­dia has been the fo­cus of its for­eign pol­icy, Islamabad has os­cil­lated be­tween two dis­tinct camps: the US, on one hand, and China, on the other.

The US war on ter­ror­ism grad­u­ally led to a quag­mire of re­gional crises and pushed Pak­istan closer to the lat­ter. Hence, we see the im­por­tance of the Pak­istani com­po­nent in the new Silk Road, which China has de­vel­oped. The Pak­istani cor­ri­dor is a cru­cial bridge be­tween land and sea routes in Eura­sia. The Arab em­brace of Pak­istan is meant to strengthen Islamabad and en­sure the gov­ern­ment’s sta­bil­ity. This means en­cour­ag­ing the coun­try’s mod­er­ate po­lit­i­cal forces that are cur­rently led by Prime Min­is­ter Khan to con­tinue work­ing to re­ha­bil­i­tate the Pak­istani econ­omy and play a vi­tal role among south Asian coun­tries. It also means do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to con­tain Pak­istan’s long-stand­ing dis­pute with In­dia, which re­mains an es­sen­tial and in­dis­pens­able ally of all Gulf coun­tries – and the Arab world more broadly.

– Ould Abah

NOT JUST A RACIST RABBI, BUT A RACIST STATE

Al-Araby al-Jadeed, Lon­don, Fe­bru­ary 27

A lot has been said and writ­ten about the po­lit­i­cal legacy of Rabbi Meir Ka­hane and his im­pact on Is­raeli pol­i­tics. Ka­hane’s party, “Jewish Power,” has re­cently re­turned to the fore, after Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu in­vited its mem­bers to join the coali­tion he is form­ing. As a re­minder, Ka­hane was the founder of the Jewish De­fense League and the Kach fas­cist gang, which soon be­came banned un­der Is­raeli law. He served as a deputy in the 11th Knes­set. In 1988, his elec­toral list was re­moved and was pre­vented from run­ning in the Is­raeli gen­eral elec­tion on the grounds that it was racist.

In this con­text, I have al­ready cited in my pre­vi­ous writ­ings an Is­raeli aca­demic study pub­lished in 2002, which con­cluded that the roots of Ka­hane’s bla­tant racism are deeply em­bed­ded in Is­raeli so­ci­ety, and that right-wing ex­trem­ism is not an anom­aly among Zion­ist politi­cians. This is true of po­lit­i­cal move­ments in Is­rael to­day, as well as in po­lit­i­cal par­ties prior to 1948, in­clud­ing the Re­vi­sion­ist Move­ment led by Ze’ev Jabotin­sky, which was in­flu­enced to a large de­gree by fas­cism in Europe. The oc­cu­pa­tion of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967 re-paved the path for the emer­gence of this world­view and brought it to the cen­ter stage of Is­raeli pol­i­tics. It is at this point that we saw the birth of ex­trem­ist Is­raeli par­ties like Tzomet and Moledet.

The study was based on a pub­lic opin­ion poll show­ing sup­port for Kach’s ex­trem­ist ideas – such as force­fully dis­plac­ing Pales­tini­ans and ini­ti­at­ing at­tacks against them – among Jewish vot­ers, in­clud­ing those who con­sider them­selves in the left­ist Meretz Party. It is there­fore im­por­tant to in­ter­pret the sig­nif­i­cance of Ne­tanyahu’s em­brace of the Ka­hane gang not only in terms of its im­pli­ca­tions on Pales­tini­ans, but also in terms of its im­pli­ca­tion on Is­raeli do­mes­tic pol­i­tics. When the “Jewish Power” Party raises the ban­ner of “Ka­hane was right” it is not only mak­ing a state­ment against Pales­tini­ans, but also against sec­u­lar and lib­eral Is­raelis. Ac­cord­ing to the party, Is­rael should be an Or­tho­dox state based on the pure su­pe­ri­or­ity of the Jewish race.

The prob­lem with Is­rael is that it seeks to bal­ance a mod­ern state that is sec­u­lar, ra­tio­nal and ef­fec­tively or­ga­nized with an­ti­quated and ob­so­lete tra­di­tions adopted from Jewish re­li­gious life in the Di­as­pora. The re­sult is a con­sis­tent fear and ha­tred of Arabs us­ing a re­li­gious pre­text. Racism, there­fore, is deeply em­bed­ded within the Jewish state. – An­toine Shal­hat

AL­GE­RIA IS BIG­GER THAN BOUTE­FLIKA

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Lon­don, March 4

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the demon­stra­tions that are cur­rently un­fold­ing in Al­ge­ria and those un­fold­ing in Su­dan is the na­ture of the chal­lenge to the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

In Su­dan, Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir is syn­ony­mous with the regime. In Al­ge­ria, Pres­i­dent Ab­de­laziz Boute­flika is the head of gov­ern­ment. If Boute­flika leaves his post – as a re­sult of a pub­lic up­ris­ing or quar­rel with the mil­i­tary – this de­par­ture will be a per­ceived as his res­ig­na­tion from power. But in Khar­toum, the de­sired po­lit­i­cal change is com­pre­hen­sive.

The Su­danese peo­ple want to re­form and rev­o­lu­tion­ize their en­tire po­lit­i­cal sys­tem; not just their head of gov­ern­ment. There­fore, change in Su­dan will be achieved only through vi­o­lence, re­sult­ing in a blood­bath that could be akin to what we’re see­ing in Syria to­day. How­ever, pres­i­den­tial change in Al­ge­ria is pos­si­ble and will not have much im­pact on the state. Pres­i­dent Boute­flika is a dis­tin­guished na­tional fig­ure, re­spected by the older gen­er­a­tion. But to­day, most of Al­ge­ria’s 40 mil­lion peo­ple are young and do not care about their na­tion’s elder lead­ers. The in­sis­tence to push for­wards Boute­flika’s can­di­dacy for the fifth time in a row is a bad idea. He has been pres­i­dent of Al­ge­ria since 1999.

It is time for him to clear his spot for a young leader who will march for­ward. This re­minds me of what hap­pened to the great his­toric Tu­nisian pres­i­dent, Habib Bour­guiba: his in­sis­tence on stay­ing in the pres­i­dent’s of­fice led to his sub­se­quent oust­ing by In­te­rior Min­is­ter Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 1987 and the end of the coun­try’s civil rule. We don’t want this to hap­pen to Boute­flika.

The regime in Al­ge­ria is strong, much like the regime in Egypt, and is based on a strong mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment, which is the back­bone of the state. Changes can­not oc­cur with­out the lat­ter’s ap­proval. The mil­i­tary will in­ter­vene if it feels that there is a dan­ger to the sta­bil­ity of the coun­try. The pro­long­ment of this pres­i­den­tial cri­sis will only send more Al­ge­ri­ans to the streets. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal par­ties will be shaken and po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions will widen. Civil strife will be ex­ac­er­bated. This will be bad for the na­tion.

The re­gion around Al­ge­ria is ablaze: Su­dan is in se­ri­ous tur­moil, Libya is in a bloody eight-year war, and Tu­nisia has been con­sis­tently un­sta­ble. There­fore, all eyes are set on Al­ge­ria right now. As the largest coun­try in Africa and the key to the sta­bil­ity in north and cen­tral Africa, Al­ge­ria is a top pri­or­ity not only for the re­gion, but also for Europe. Al­ge­ria is big­ger than Boute­flika. He must step down with honor and dig­nity and al­low a suc­ces­sor to take his place.

– Abd al-Rah­man al-Rashed

When the ‘Jewish Power’ [Otzma Ye­hu­dit] party raises the ban­ner of ‘Ka­hane was right,’ it is not only mak­ing a state­ment against Pales­tini­ans, but also against sec­u­lar and lib­eral Is­raelis

AMER­ICA’S CHANG­ING PRI­OR­I­TIES IN SOUTH­EAST ASIA

Al-Aharam, Egypt, Fe­bru­ary 19

For well over a decade, Amer­i­cans have been talk­ing about the need to take care of the so-called “Asian chal­lenge.” This chal­lenge is twofold: first, the eco­nomic ad­vance­ment of In­dia and China and its ri­valry with the United States and, sec­ond, the strate­gic trans­for­ma­tion that the Chi­nese have been mak­ing for two decades, in­de­pen­dently of the US, and what it means in the global arena.

In the re­cent mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan, the Amer­i­cans found them­selves sid­ing with the In­di­ans, while the Pak­ista­nis found them­selves closer to China. US di­plo­mats and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have re­gret­ted their re­la­tion­ship with Pak­istan, given the lat­ter’s lack of co­op­er­a­tion in the global war on ter­ror­ism and the shel­ter it gave to many al-Qaeda mil­i­tants. How­ever, chang­ing geopo­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests in the re­gion are now push­ing Amer­ica back to­wards Pak­istan.

There is the new Amer­i­can per­cep­tion that Pak­istan is an in­te­gral and cru­cial com­po­nent of the global com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the US and China. How­ever, Trump has al­ready made clear his plan to dis­en­gage from the Mid­dle East. Is there an in­her­ent con­tra­dic­tion be­tween Amer­ica be­ing in the Mid­dle East and Amer­ica be­ing in the Far East at the same time? Of course not. But the Amer­i­can pres­ence in both are­nas in­tro­duces new ri­val­ries to the re­gion, not only in mil­i­tary strength but also in terms of eco­nomic power. Wash­ing­ton will have to prove it­self as a re­li­able ally. This is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for Wash­ing­ton to do, as more coun­tries around the world be­gin ques­tion­ing Amer­ica’s re­solve.

The Amer­i­cans con­tinue to abide by the idea of US hege­mony and ex­cep­tion­al­ism, but a grow­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans are ques­tion­ing this nar­ra­tive. Put an­other way: Amer­i­cans in­sist that noth­ing has changed and that they are still the strong­est coun­try in the world, while its op­po­nents, and even some of its al­lies, in­sist that US eco­nomic su­pe­ri­or­ity is no longer guar­an­teed and that its mil­i­tary su­pe­ri­or­ity is sim­ply not enough to pro­mote US in­ter­ests on the ground.

– Khalil al-Anani

(Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)

A STICKER pro­claims, ‘Ka­hane was right, about this there can be no de­bate!’

(Reuters)

PAK­ISTANI PRES­I­DENT Arif Alvi (left) be­stows his coun­try’s high­est civil award, Nis­han-e-Pak­istan, on Saudi Ara­bia’s Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man at the Pres­i­dent House in Islamabad on Fe­bru­ary 18.

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