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David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

Breaking a Taboo in the Arab World



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Last October, someone by the name of Abdullatif al-Mulhim wrote an article that broke a taboo. He told fellow Arabs something they are never allowed to hear, that their wars against Israel have only harmed themselves. Hostility towards Israel is almost sacrosanct in Arab countries, and learned men on public platforms solemnly assert that Jews are descendants of apes and pigs. It is dangerous to keep people in ignorance like this. The real enemies of the Arabs, Mulhim spells out, are corruption, lack of good education and health care, and so lack of respect for human life. Arab dictators, he goes on, have committed atrocities against their own people far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars. What decided him to write like this was starvation, killing, and destruction in one or another Arab country. The final clincher is that Palestinians in Israel or under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza are happier and in a better situation than their Arab brothers who came to liberate them.

I know nothing about Mulhim except that he is described as a retired officer of the Saudi navy. And now Amal al-Hazzani publishes two articles with similar observations. She is Assistant Professor of Molecular Genetics at King Saud University in Riyadh with quite a list of contributions to professional journals to her credit. In Israel, she writes, “politicians are distinguished by their sincerity and devotion to the higher interests of the state.” Arabs listen to the cheap words of poets and politicians who heap insults on Israel from their luxurious hotel rooms. They are still unaware where, why, and how their feelings of hate towards Israel come about. While they have sunk into hating, the Israelis have built eight public universities and 200 museums and become a rival to America in the programming and software industry. Israelis have got where they are by intelligence, or as she explains, by learning Arabic and studying the culture of Arabs. Her admiration for these achievements is clear.

The Middle East is exploding and the explanation for these articles may lie in the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, that is to say Sunni versus Shiite, or Arab versus Persian. The Saudis are frightened of the imminent finalization of an Iranian nuclear bomb and they see President Obama as weak, variable, more likely to surrender rather than use military measures to stop the nuclear threat. Israel would certainly take military measures and so there is a coincidence of interests. The Arab press is controlled, and it may be that the ground is being prepared for welcoming a strike. As far as I know, neither has been pressured by authorities, let alone punished. Both of these writers may also be free spirits with the courage of their opinions. If ever the word gets out to the masses that hatred of Israel is irrational and counterproductive then there will be a repeat of perestroika and the Arab Spring will become a reality.



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