Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012

Ahram Weekly

Arab press: Mandela fundamentals

Gamal Nkrumah tracks Cameron in the Gulf

Al-Ahram Weekly

The battle for the White House and the historic choice Americans faced preoccupied many an Arab pundit. However, the subsequent importance ascribed to the American elections demonstrated how “backward” Arabs appeared politically and that it would probably take years before Arab political forces could publicly display any influence from the American political experience.

“I was attempting in vain to explain to my college students the subtle differences in semantics between the various concepts used by political analysts in the West, or in the Anglo-Saxon tradition to be precise — policy, polity, politics, the political arena and political life. Alas, in the Arabic language, many such terms and notions appear to be confused,” lamented Abdel-Khalek Azouzi in the United Arab Emirates daily Al-Ittihad.

The writer further elaborated on the implications of the American race to the White House. “Neither of the American presidential candidates used populist jargon nor cheap political tradeoffs in their televised debates. This is largely because people the world over have become fed up and very cynical about such trivia and are now much more interested in reason and moderation,” Azouzi asserted.

In much the same vein, Mohamed Khaled Al-Azaar praised the American political process but was critical of the “unwarranted importance of fund-raising, as it gives an edge to the wealthier political candidates,” in an article entitled “Money embraces politics, and the disadvantaged are discounted” in the Emirates-based daily Al-Bayan. “Those who scrutinise the democratic process admit that the capitalists cannot stop meddling in the political process and direct it in such a way that it serves their own interests,” Al-Azaar observed.

“Fund-raising has become an essential feature of politics. These are strategies that are not necessarily found in the political systems of quasi-democratic or autocratic countries and this is also part and parcel of the Arab Spring phenomenon,” noted Al-Azaar in Al-Bayan.

Gulf papers focused on the tour by British Prime Minister David Cameron of three Gulf countries — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Cameron concluded the sale of 60 Eurofighters Typhoon jets to the United Arab Emirates in order to replace the aging fleet of French Mirage jets ill-equipped to counter the supposed Iranian military threat.

The arms sales were applauded as being in Britain’s interests. Cameron was ecstatic. “We want to work together with the Gulf countries towards a future that is rich in prosperity, strong in defense, and open in its handling and pursuit of political and economic reform,” the Emirates dailyAl-Khaleej quoted the British premier as saying.

The Gulf dailies downplayed Cameron’s criticism of human rights abuses in the oil-rich Arab Gulf states. The United Arab Emirates, for instance, set stricter Internet monitoring measures on Tuesday and tightened enforcement codes. This is crucial to averting a civil war or Arab Spring not only in Kuwait, but also in other Gulf Arab countries experiencing a wave of social uprisings, such as Bahrain.

Emadeddin Adib, writing in the Pan-Arab London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat on the Kuwaiti political crisis in an article entitled “Kuwait is in danger,” was severely critical of the Kuwaiti constitutional crisis and the attendant political tensions. The writer warned that the generous cradle-to-grave benefits and government handouts were the linchpins of the Kuwaiti social and political pact. Petrodollars ensured a semblance of political stability. 

The Kuwaiti political impasse took on an ominous turn when the Emir of the tiny oil-rich state disbanded the 50-seat parliament and enforced autocratic rule.

Arab papers also extensively reviewed the revelations by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, who vowed to “live and die” in his homeland in an exclusive interview with a Russian television channel. The interview seemed to corroborate Assad’s grip on power. However, the media also tackled the founding of the new Syrian opposition umbrella grouping — the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (NCSR) in Doha.

Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat Tarek Al-Homayed focussed on Syria, or rather on the opposition NCSR. “You can say what you want about the Syrian opposition and even the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, but what is significant is that they were able to elect a Christian leader for the Syrian National Council,” applauded Al-Homayed. Al-Homayed, of course, was referring to George Sabra.

Indeed, the selection of Sabra raised a few eyebrows and there was much speculation that the real reason for the choice of Sabra was to placate Western and secularist critics of the Syrian National Council that was the stronghold of militant Islamists.

On a different note, the Saudi academician and commentator Khaled Al-Dakhil wrote in the London-based Pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat comparing the “American model and the Syrian model”. After lamenting the international community’s failure to come to the assistance of Syrians fighting for political freedom and democratisation, Al-Dakhil warned “there is a flagrant difference between the Syrian model and the American model these days… Historically, the Syrians have been living under conditions of repression for 1,500 years,” noted Al-Dakhil.

Mandela has demonstrated an admirable pragmatism, magnanimity and generosity of spirit. “The Arab regimes born from the womb of the Arab Spring do not truly understand the great era of the genius leader Nelson Mandela who emerged from his cell after nearly 29 years of imprisonment without a sense of vengeance, hatred or anger. He was willing to forgive others, and on this moral principle the moral foundations of his genius were built. He acknowledged the mistakes of those who had been at fault, granted them amnesty and allowed them to participate in the new society,” Hussein Shobokshi, who hosts the weekly current affairs programme Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya television satellite station, wrote in Asharq Al-Awsat.

“When this principle was applied South Africa reaped dazzling results, with stability, coexistence and positive thinking spreading among its people,” Shobokshi said, praising the South African example of Truth and Reconciliation.

“Yes, the racist ruler FW De Klerk became the vice president of Mandela’s republic, something that De Klerk himself could scarcely believe, but this was a practical application of the idea of tolerance and co-existence. Could you imagine this scene in Egypt? If President Morsi had acknowledged the massive split in the vote between the two presidential candidates, and thus realised that the country itself is sharply divided, then he would have appointed Ahmed Shafik as his Prime Minister or deputy,” Shobokshi concluded.

add comment

  • follow us on