Sunday,18 March, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012
Sunday,18 March, 2018
Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Paparazzi and Palestine

Al-Ahram Weekly

The timing of the Kuwaiti political crisis is surreptitiously surreal. Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah this week reluctantly accepted the Kuwaiti cabinet’s resignation in a controversial development that has accentuated the country’s political crisis. Is a new Arab Spring in the making? The 50-member Kuwaiti cabinet, according to pro-government political forces is nowadays celebrated only for counterpoise and stasis.

The opposition — Sunni Islamists, including Salafis, liberals and nationalists — a curious and hopelessly divided motley of rival protagonists — insists that the parliamentary system in Kuwait is long overdue a reform.

The Kuwaiti authorities and opposition forces are at loggerheads over how to safeguard national interests in the tiny emirate of Kuwait. The increasing volatility of the political situation in a country that has one of the highest standards of living per capita is disastrous to say the least.

The Kuwaiti opposition predictably rejects a rubber stamp parliament and the Kuwaiti pro-government political establishment counters that there is nothing unconstitutional about the parliamentary election that took place this week. The opposition promptly declared the parliamentary poll unconstitutional and called for the new parliament to be abolished, much to the consternation of the conservatives who abhor the blocking mechanism of the opposition.

Scanning the Kuwaiti papers, each makes sense. Outgoing Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah continues to head a caretaker government until a new cabinet is formed. The disputation over the parliamentary poll itself is cause for concern. The opposition claimed that the turnout was only 26.7 per cent. Meanwhile, the head of the National Electoral Commission Ahmed Al-Ajeel announced on Monday that the voter turnout was 39.7 per cent. The clash over the Kuwaiti parliament has barely displaced the melodramatic feud in Kuwait from the headlines.

The Kuwaiti authorities contend that the parliamentary poll is not just politically expedient, but that it is the surest way to avoid an even bigger problem — political chaos in the oil-rich country.

Kuwaiti columnist Mohamed Hazzaa Al-Mutairi, writing in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, asserts that Kuwait is entering a new and decisive phase in its history. “We are sure that the majority of the opposition and in particular its youthful cadres, do not project the principle and praxis of confrontation. The opposition forces have adopted the slogan of peaceful change and positive action,” Al-Mutairi extrapolated in Al-Qabas.

In much the same vein, veteran columnist Jihad Al-Khazen wrote a poignant article entitled ‘The Kuwaiti opposition lost’ outlined the conundrum of the Kuwaiti political crisis. “I insist that the Kuwaiti opposition boycotted the parliamentary poll at their own peril. The Sunni opposition indirectly voted in the new Shia MPs. The [Sunni] opposition will pay a terrible price for their boycott of the polls,” noted Al-Khazen. “They wanted to participate in the decision-making process and in the economic and financial boom of Kuwait. Yet they boycotted the poll to their detriment,” Al-Khazen expounded.

Palestine’s unprecedented United Nations observer state membership hit the headlines. The Israeli government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected the open-ended global commitment to a Palestinian state. An overwhelming number of UN member states supported the Palestinian bid.

Astonishingly, the Israelis responded by announcing they will construct 3,000 homes for Israeli settlers in Palestinian territory. Even Israel’s Western allies, including the United States, criticised the self-styled Jewish state headed by right-wing Netanyahu. Some of the more level-headed Israeli politicians strongly disapproved. “To be honest with you, I am not sure there was a reason to oppose the request from the Palestinian Authority to upgrade their status,” former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert told Al-Arabiya.

Pundits concurred that the Israeli government should not be let off the hook. The problem of Palestine is inextricably intertwined with the question of the security crisis gripping Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

“A large cross-section of the Egyptian populace have a vague feeling that the domestic political dynamics in Egypt are closely correlated to what is happening in Gaza and northern Sinai,” warned veteran Egyptian politician and academician Mustafa Al-Feki in the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat.

“The Egyptian army appears to be chasing hordes of angry Bedouins and locals with no clear sense of political identity. However, a majority of the disgruntled masses appear to espouse a militant Islamist ideology. Many are Salafis or are influenced by ‘jihadist thought’. The dignity of the tribesmen of Sinai was damaged and impaired during the pre-January 2011 Revolution by the Egyptian security forces at the time. This is in dire need of rectification,” Al-Feki admonished.

The Syrian writer Ghazi Hamdan writing in Al-Hayat noted that the Syrian armed opposition forces are “on the gates of Damascus”. Hamdan was severely critical of the Russian position vis-à-vis Syria. “No doubt that Moscow, and in spite of what is said about its short-sightedness with regards to the Syrian crisis, does have an insight into the dynamics of the political establishment in Syria. Russia, it appears, understands something about the secrets of the tenacity of the Syrian regime,” Hamdan observed. “The military commanders of the Syrian regime undoubtedly know that their days are numbered and that the opposition forces have cornered them into a war they cannot win,” Hamdan summed up.

In a thought-provoking op-ed entitled ‘Two countries and one people’ pundit Elias Harfoush stressed the ties that bind Syria and Lebanon. “Why do some observers find it strange that after all the atrocities that the Syrian regime has committed in Lebanon, a considerable contingency of Lebanese politicos would side with the opposition forces to the Syrian regime? The Lebanese are paying with their blood to get rid of the Syrian regime, and this is in the mutual interest of the Lebanese and Syrian people,” Harfoush concluded.

Last Wednesday’s gripping interview with former Arab League secretary-general and once Egyptian presidential hopeful Amr Moussa raised eyebrows because of its candidness, especially concerning Syria. “I wish Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad would have followed in the footsteps of ex-president Ali Abdallah Saleh of Yemen and stepped down instead of pursuing the disastrous course he has taken which is tearing the country apart. Damascus has committed a grave error when it favoured its relationships with regional powers such as Russia and Iran instead of strengthening ties with its Arab brethren,” Moussa lamented. “I long expected an explosive seismic shift in the Arab world at large. Change was long overdue.”

Mohamed Gomeih touched on a terribly sensitive and contentious subject in the pan-Arab London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat entitled ‘Divine right, and the new theocracy.’ “Unfortunately, in political Islam, to be precise, those individuals with political aspirations and those groups yearning for political power have used religion in order to achieve worldly gains such as wealth and power,” Gomeih mused.

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