Even before the annual meeting of AIPAC in which American presidential candidates submitted their credentials in emphasizing that Jerusalem must be the united capital of Israel, and during which they assured their commitment to the military superiority of Israel, so that it continues to occupy, kill and transfer Palestinians and Arabs, even before all this, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley contributed a trenchant op-ed to the New York Times on June 3, 2008 under the title “Peace Fills a Vacuum”, in which they discussed the eventual thawing of three crises in the Middle East, without virtually the help, or even the presence, of the United States.
The writers referred to the Doha agreement regarding Lebanon, and to Egypt’s effort with regard to Gaza, and to the enunciation of the Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations sponsored by Turkey. They highlighted the point that: “That so many parties are moving at the same time in so many arenas is noteworthy enough. That they are doing so without — and, in some cases, despite — the United States is more remarkable still”. And they considered this a clear indication that: “Intent on isolating its foes, the United States has instead ended up marginalizing itself”.They read major events in the Middle East as a proof of the degeneration of the credibility of the United States, and as vivid indicators that “At a critical time in a critical region, [the United States] is quite simply missing in action”.
Soon after that, we all listened to American presidential candidates speaking in front of AIPAC , entirely ignoring the Arabs and their rights, lands and future. The next big item of the news in the Middle East was the so-called security agreement between the United States and Iraq, which will ensure that Iraq remains under the thumb of the Americans for a hundred years to come. All these subsequent events prove that the Arabs have no place in the dictionary of American foreign policy. Rather, they further prove that American politicians are prepared to do whatever it takes in order to ensure that Israel has the upper hand in the region, no matter how many crimes it perpetrates against the Arabs and their children.
A fresh reading of the above mentioned events in the region show, without a shadow of doubt, that the Arabs possess the essential factors of their own strength, and they are the only ones who can change the course of events in favor of their historic rights. That is to say, the keys of their problems are in their own pockets, and not across the Atlantic.
The flip side of Agha and Malley’s reading of the absence of the US is the beginning of a shy, but definite, emergence of an Arab Consciousness that they are the ones who can shape the future of their region. The convening of the ordinary Arab Summit in Damascus and the events which followed including the latest summit in Tripoli, Libya to coordinate Arab stands for the initiative of the Mediterranean Union, all indicate that most Arabs are beginning to believe that they are the only ones who can address their problems, and who can make an impact on regional and international platforms if they coordinate their efforts together. Hence, they may, in the near future, direct to themselves the questions they used to address to the US and Israel about what is happening to their fellow Arab men and women in Iraq and Palestine and Lebanon and Sudan and Somalia. They may not blame other powers for the killings and the humiliations to which Arabs are subjected, but may blame only themselves. Once they clearly reach and acknowledge this conclusion, they would be working for the dawn of a much brighter future for the region at large.
This is neither an easy nor a mean task but it is also not an impossible one. The Arabs are not as weak as the propaganda against them suggests by iimbuing them with concepts of frustration and hopelessness. Nor are their adversaries as strong as they are portrayed, because they are the aggressors and the occupiers and we all know that the final destiny of aggressors and occupiers is defeat. Most people in the world are now disillusioned with the American propaganda and performance, and if the Arabs decide to take a real lead regarding the crucial issues concerning their rights, they will find many people in the world volunteering to support them. Let me just one example, in the form of an event that I recently experienced in Greece.
I was invited by the Foreign Minister of Greece, Mrs. Dora Bakoyannis, to a meeting of Women Leaders Workshop; an initiative that was launched few years ago in the presence of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The American delegate who is a senior advisor for Rice started the session with a long demo of how good the US is to women all over the world, conspicuously ignoring the middle East and North Africa region (MENA) which was the main focus of the meeting. Once she finished, most Arab delegates spoke (there were about 12 of us ) and we all pointed out that foreign occupation is the most critical problem that breeds poverty, humiliation and disease for women, and that putting an end to foreign occupation is the most valuable assistance that we can give to women all over the world.
We changed the focus from the kind of charity and the few dollars the American delegate was speaking about to the fact that Israeli and American occupation of Arab countries in the MENA region create the greatest impediments in the way of women welfare and emancipation.
Ministers and representatives of other countries supported us directly and indirectly and we ended up by making the real issues from which Arab women suffer the focus of attention. How could the American delegate defeat us? She had not a clue about the lives of women in our region. However, she would have defeated us if we were either absent or silent.
Dr BOUTHAINA SHAABAN is a member of the Syrian cabinet, as Minister of Expatriates – ie the 15 million members of the Syrian diaspora. She was a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee in 2005. She can be reached at email@example.com