Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

An Arab Counterpoint Is Urgently Needed

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

An Arab Counterpoint Is Urgently Needed

Article excerpt

About 100 years ago, Britain and France joined forces-and for a while with Russia-in eliminating the Ottoman Empire, which had been in occupation of the Arab world for hundreds of years, and decided to partition the vast region into their own colonies in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.

In accordance with the so-called secretive document called the Sykes-Picot Accord of 1916, the vast region of several Arab countries, including Palestine, were divided and occupied by the French and the British. But almost all the occupations were mostly dissolved by the end of World War II, including Palestine, then considered a British mandate. In 1948, the United Nations partitioned the Holy Land, awarding the Palestinian Arabs, the majority population, only 45 percent of the country, while the remainder was bestowed on the Israelis.

In the ensuing period the emerging Arab states suffered various upheavals, and in some countries the military usurped power from the inept civilian leaderships. But the initiation of the so-called Arab Spring in the region more than two years ago has in good part encouraged many Arabs of a brighter future. This was not the view elsewhere, however, especially in the U.S. Two recently published opinions see more division within the Arab world:

The New York Times ran a Sept. 28 op-ed titled "Imagining a Remapped Middle East," written by Robin Wright, author of Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World (available from the AETBook Club) and a distinguished scholar at the United States Institute of Peace and the Wilson Center, who had lived in Lebanon in the mid-'70s, during the country's 15-year civil war.

She enumerated several other social conflicts within various states-Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen-claiming that "the map of the modern Middle East...is in tatters" and, most drastically, "Syria's ruinous war is the turning point." In other words, "the centrifugal forces of rival beliefs, tribes and ethnicities...are also pulling apart a region defined by European colonial powers a century ago and defended by Arab autocrats ever since."

But, amazingly, she never cast any blame on the role of Western powers or, more directly, their stance vis-à-vis Israel, the Western-supported country in the region which can do no wrong, whether in reportedly possessing nuclear and chemical weapons, refusing to pull back from occupied territories or building more settlements there.

Wright never cast blame on the role of Western powers or their stance vis-à-vis Israel. …

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