I would like you to try and imagine someone forcing his way into your home without permission and ordering you at gun point to leave the safe home you have built through a lifetime of toil and hard work and turned into a nest for your children and grandchildren. Imagine foreign soldiers coming from the far ends of the world armed to the teeth with inherited hatred against you to expel you from your home, replace you, occupy your land, and put an end to your existence and history.
Like anyone else, you look round for help from family, friends and neighbors. You find them busy currying favours with authorities they think are capable of determining their destiny, while they themselves have the key to their destiny if they stand for their dignity and for their rights. Despite their differences, you see them equal before the Israeli occupier who erected checkpoints on their roads to humiliate them, violate their identity and usurp their rights. Nevertheless, you see them preoccupied with small battles among themselves forgetful of the only battle worthy of their effort and their struggle: the battle for their freedom and their independence.
If you cannot imagine that because you have no experience of the crimes and humiliation of occupation, just consider the case of the Hanoun and Ghawi families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Israeli soldiers threw the two families and all their belongings out of their homes. Foreign settlers, with a brutality that characterizes all racists, rushed in while the men, women and children of the two families, seventy of them, looked on with grief and frustration for the lost home, the memories, the happy moments which brought them together with friends and family, the aspirations which once filled their souls.
Arab and Muslim readers could read in the dim eyes of the Arab Muslim mother, the feelings of disappointment, frustration and despair of all the millions of Arabs and Muslims and of all the ‘civilized’ world which never tires of talking about freedom, democracy and human rights. One could read a question on her innocent face: are not we, Arab Muslim Palestinians, human beings?! Where are all those hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims in the four corners of the world? Why do not they rush to our aid? Or are they like the scum of a turbulent stream?
Despite the enormity of the crime and the tragedy, most of the Arab media limited themselves to quick news stories about the Hanoun and Ghawi families. The media also turned a page on Judaizing the names of Arab villages and cities in Palestine, preventing the Palestinians from remembering the nakba, or catastrophe, and were only descriptive about the model of the temple which Israel has built next to al-Aqsa mosque in a long series of attempts to turn it into a synagogue.
Instead of being preoccupied with Israeli threats to the rights and sanctities of their brothers, particularly to the first of the holy Muslim shrines, part of Arab officialdom is busy calculating the extent of the power of Turkey and Iran and how it affects the Arab identity and the future of the region.
While the Israeli threat engulfs Jerusalem, and while Israeli settlements are sprawling all over Palestine, and Ehud Barak threatens to destroy all Lebanon if its people reject Israeli hegemony; and after Iranian officials talked about the duty of all Arabs to defend any Arab country threatened with aggression; and after Turkish officials called on the Arabs to unite and face plots aimed at dividing and weakening them, some Arab columnists responded by talking about the danger of the ‘Ottoman Pasha’ and the ‘Persian enemy’. Such articles are, of course, an integral part of a tireless campaign which has been raging for years to weaken the Arabs and undermine them completely even with regard to ties and relations which could contribute to their revival if they made good use of them.
The fact of the matter is that the geopolitical and economic situation in our region is in a transitional phase during which Arabs are suffering from total weakness and deliberate division. Turkey and Iran have in recent years, and for political and religious motives, shown support for the Arab position, particularly against foreign aggression and occupation of Palestine and Lebanon. So, what is the Arab position towards this important strategic geopolitical transformation? What are the criteria they use in assessing this relationship?
There is no disputing the fact that the coming age is the age of knowledge. The Western, and particularly the Israeli, attack against Iran is caused by their fear that Iran would possess knowledge of nuclear energy which will enable it to have an independent national will. Their explicit and implicit battles with Turkey are caused by Turkey’s strategic policy which has made Turkey a crucial player in energy transmission between Europe and Asia.
Through the Nabucco pipeline and the South Stream project, Turkey has insured the prosperity of Turkish economy and the power and status for the Turkish nation for future decades and maybe the next century, while the Arabs ignore the source of the strategic power which they have in their oil, water and geographical position and destroy all the elements of their power by division and fragmentation. That is why their role is shriveling internationally and diminishing regionally.
If Arabs continue on this course they will be no more significant than the scum and froth over a stream. Hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims failed to stand and defend Gaza, Mohammad al-Durra and the Hanoun and Ghawi families, while President Bill Clinton has gone to North Korea to bring back an American journalist. The millions of Arabs should stand and be counted because the enemies have gathered over our nation like hungry vultures.
BOUTHAINA SHAABAN is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates and spokesperson for Syria. . She has also been a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org