Al-Ahram Weekly Online   30 March - 5 April 2006
Issue No. 788
Press review
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Compared to 1967

Going by the way problems are dealt with, Arab governments are failing their people, writes Doaa El-Bey

The problems facing Sudan, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria forces upon Arab leaders to try to achieve at least something in the Khartoum summit. However, writers this week did not expect it to achieve much, some comparing it to the 1967 summit held in the wake of the humiliating Arab-Israeli war.

The two summits, both held in Khartoum, came and have come at a critical juncture. Writers remembered the success and unprecedented agreement reached among member states in 1967, and unanimously agreed that the second summit was not as likely to achieve similar success.

Osama Ayoub wrote in Al-Osbou on Monday that the task of Arab governments was easier in 1967 because they had a stronger political will and an ability to work together while the challenges facing them were less dangerous.

Ayoub believes the situation is completely different in 2006 as the mission of Arab governments is more difficult and costlier and comes at a time when they are less capable of taking decisions.

"If the 1967 summit was remembered for the three famous "Nos" and the complete support for the occupied Arab states, the 2006 summit should witness strong decisive and unified resolutions. This is what the Arab people expect," Ayoub wrote.

In the same newspaper, Mahmoud Bakri questioned why leaders dropped the no to surrender, no to negotiations and no to recognition of Israel. "In 1967, Israel was begging for reconciliation and negotiations with the Arabs. But now, after the unprecedented state of Arab discord, it is the Arabs who are seeking reconciliation with Israel."

Mohamed Wahbi looked at the road, from the summit of steadfastness in 1967 to that of obscurity in 2006, in the weekly magazine Al-Musawwar. Wahbi wrote that the first summit saw historic support from all Arab states to Egypt, Jordan and Syria in their battle to regain their lands.

"The 2006 summit is being held in an environment of obscurity. Nevertheless, the resolutions to be reached in the summit will not only affect the future of the member states but that of the Arab League as well," Wahbi wrote.

Mohsen Mohamed recalled the Khartoum gathering as the three "Nos" meeting in which all the Arabs adopted a unified stand against Israel and its supporters. "Thus Khartoum was considered the Arab capital that rekindled the sense of unity and joint work among all Arab states in 1967, although Sudan was far from the field of battle," Mohamed wrote in Al-Wafd. He did not even hint that Khartoum could play the same role this week.

Though talk about the summit took precedence, writers remembered the Al-Salam 98 ferry with sadness. They focussed on how to tackle the cause of last month's disaster and avoid similar accidents in the future. Mohamed Abdel-Hafez questioned how to bring the owner of the ferry to justice. He wrote that 45 days after the sinking which killed 1,000 passengers, the Shura Council finally lifted its immunity from the owner of the ferry Mamdouh Ismail so that he be questioned. But Abdel-Hafez wondered in the daily Al-Akhbar on Sunday where Ismail was, having already travelled abroad.

In the same newspaper, Gamal Abul- Azm talked about how to avoid a similar fate in the future. He listed some easy but sometimes costly means like regular maintenance of fire extinguishers, regular checks on communication systems on ferries and training passengers on the procedures of exiting a ferry in time of danger.

The increase in the price of phone services was another sign that the government is unable or unwilling to comprehend the suffering of its people. The Egyptian Telecommunication Company came under criticism for raising the price of phone calls despite an 80 per cent profit the company made this year.

"These increases show no consideration to justice or to the financial difficulties that many Egyptians are facing," Sayed Hegazi wrote in Al-Akhbar.

The spread of bird flu was blamed on the corruption of the government. Osama Dawoud wrote that the Ministry of Health imported a vaccine from China although it knows it has proven ineffective in China as well as in many other Asian countries. "As a result, bird flu has caused a loss of LE18 billion," Dawoud wrote in Al-Arabi on Sunday.

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