Every time an Arab country faces a crisis of any kind, Western powers take immediate steps to hold a conference which ends up with ready made solutions, with the necessary funding for these solutions. Such conferences are usually held in Paris or London, although experience has shown that solutions which approach crises from a geographical, historical or even political distance can never be effective.
Experience has also shown that the ‘figures’ granted generously for handling such crises remain, like most Western promises, mere figures on papers, and sometimes they better remain so rather than being sent in the form of what they used to call “support to minorities” which means in the end stoking sectarian strife between families and neighbors who are incited to regress to an identity much inferior to the Arab Islamic identity which they have and to narrow cantons which can only be useful to those who covet their land and resources.
Yemen’s Foreign Minister, Abu Bakr al-Qurabi, for instance, acknowledged in the conference held recently in London on Yemen that “the $ 5 billion in aid donors decided to give in the 2006 donor conference were not translated into development projects and activities”. Yet, another conference was held, and once again in London. Hence, we understand al-Qurabi’s concern that his country may become a “failed state”. The key phrase which we should examine carefully is “The Arab and international community”; for all calls are made on these two communities to shoulder their responsibilities towards the Arab country going through one crisis or another. At a time the line has become so blurred between the Arab and international communities in terms of security coordination, clandestine activities, joint military operations particularly in the field of intelligence. Real Arab interests are clearly contradictory with the plans being hatched against Arabs and executed against their countries under different names like fighting “al-Qaeda” which inherited the mantle of Communism as the international community’s enemy, to intelligence cooperation and coordination in the field of human rights. The same applies to economic aid most of which is spent on strengthening Arab dependence on Western hegemonic centers.
If we look at what is happening in the Arab world and the positions of countries which dominate “international” decision making we see that Arabs and Muslims all fall into the category of the black Africans as they used to be classified before 1964 in the United States.
What can one call measures like monitoring people from Arab and Muslim countries throughout flights to the United States, preventing them from covering themselves with blankets and preventing them from going to the toilets for hours before landing. The measures include humiliating searches like “searching people’s behinds and showing them naked under scans”. Does not that remind us of Afro-American literature which describes how white people used to portray the black man as a body without a soul, heart or feelings which can parallel the white man’s feeling of dignity? Does not that also remind us of the racist theories which promote the idea that Muslims love death and that Palestinian women celebrate the death of their children and push them towards it. Nothing is said of the amount of humiliation these victims have been subjected to and because of which they preferred death as a means of protecting their dignity from the atrocious insults levelled at them. In all these measures the Arab and Muslim worlds can be summarised into “Arabs and Muslims”. No difference is made between a moderate and a non-compliant country. The racist idea of considering them inferior is applied to all of them.
Such racist practices are also applied to international travellers, who are neither Arab nor Muslim but happen to make a stop at an Arab or Muslim capital; as if being an Arab or a Muslim has become a contagious disease.
On the other hand, when you get to the Arab world from the Western colonialist gate, you see identities, races, religions and regions within the same country. The West talks about Sunna, Shia, Maronite, Christian, Huthi, Copts, Kurds, Armenians, Muslims, Arabs, Africans, desert people, mountain people, people of the West Bank versus the people of Gaza, veiled women versus unveiled women. You see trenches, walls and wires separating people of the same nation.
Hence demarcating borders and building walls become a priority as if they were an international economic program imposed on all Arab countries, while regional blocs in other parts of the world are removing borders and expanding the space of freedom for work, travel, culture and life, which makes the people of these countries prouder and more prosperous.
The ultimate disaster will take decades to reach its final shape, but all those concerned for the security and dignity of this nation know that we have already started to see its first chapters. When Israel ignores, with the support of the civilized West, the Goldstone report, refuses to try its war criminals, refuses President Obama’s demand that it stops settlement, portrays Iranian scientific capacity as the only threat in the region, introduces the Chinese language in its school curricula in preparation for the decades ahead, Arabs fall into a trench here, hide behind a wall there, and are intolerant to their brothers and friends.
The only solution is to succumb to the will of the West on one key issue – and here I agree with all those who like to follow Western policies and believe in them and in their classifications – that we are all “Arabs and Muslims”, that our Arab identity is our only safeguard and that our solidarity is the only way for our survival regardless of all differences on how to get there. The fate of Gaza today is the fate of every one of us tomorrow unless we change. Change means having a strategic vision and not shelving the files of joint Arab action and making urgent use of the files of division, sedition and in-fighting.
BOUTHAINA SHAABAN is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She has been the spokesperson for Syria and was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org