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Friday, December 6, 2019

Will Arabs ever regain their dignity?

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

© Al Habtoor Group

I’ve always thought of myself as a proud Arab but lately I’ve been seriously wondering whether there’s anything to feel proud about. There was a time when our leaders spoke, the world heard them loud and clear. But those days are, unfortunately, long gone. I cannot comprehend the present generation of Arab leaders. Where is their courage? What happened our Arab dignity? They behave like they don’t have eyes to see, ears to hear or the ability to feel their people’s anguish.

Nevertheless, until I turned on my television some mornings ago to catch the news, I still held to the belief that there was hope for the Arab nation, perhaps because that was what I needed to believe. But what I witnessed on Al Jazeera was for me the last straw. I cannot continue wearing rose colored spectacles when there is an unpleasant reality staring me in the face.

What I saw was a live feed of a rather grand conference on Palestine. I was initially delighted to listen to a Kuwaiti official addressing the delegates on the topic; that was until I saw that Iran’s revolutionary leader the Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenie was presiding when I was shocked to realize it was being held in the Iranian capital Tehran.

It turns out that this was the fifth time that Iran has hosted a conference on the Palestinian Intifada attended by influential Arabs such as the Parliamentary Speakers of Sudan, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria and Qatar as well as parliamentary delegations from Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.

My first thought was ‘What are our Arab leaderships doing sending politicians to discuss Palestine on the soil of their greatest enemy, an enemy that is infiltrating Arab states so as to gain influence by indoctrinating our people with extremist Iranian ideology, funding militant groups and trumpeting territorial rights over Gulf states – and which is probably developing a nuclear capability that will alter the regional balance of power forever. As far as I’m concerned this is an enemy that’s just as dangerous to Arabs as Israel; perhaps even more so as Israel cannot cross certain red lines as long as Washington is there to rein it in.

I couldn’t help questioning how those Arab delegates felt inside as they flew to Iran whose people are being crushed by a tyrannical regime to talk about a topic so dear to every Arab’s heart - and especially when there are few such conferences being held in their own countries and none that I can think of on a similar scale. Surely any such international summit on Palestine should be hosted by an Arab country.

If I were in their place I would have been ashamed at the reticence of Arab leaders to get involved allowing non-Arab countries like Iran and Turkey to step into the breach. It’s sad to say but people like the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad often use rhetoric that sounds more ‘Arab’ than that of their Arab counterparts. In the case of Mr. Erdogan, however, I very much appreciate his efforts because I believe they are sincere, whereas Khamenei and Ahmadinejad use the Palestinian cause to further their agenda.

It’s goes against the grain but, in all honesty, I have to admit that the Iranians are smarter than we are; they have a clear agenda and a carefully-designed master plan on how to implement it. Unlike us, Iranians are focused on their country’s progress. Indeed, most successful nations on the planet put their own interests first which we Arabs fail to do. Instead, we live from day to day hoping for the best. We don’t formulate our future; we don’t have a unified economic, diplomatic or military strategy. We sit back and react to situations as they happen rather than proactively shape the region to suit our needs. We’re like straws blowing in the wind which is why we are thought of as weak and ineffectual nowadays.

This is the first time ever that I’ve experienced such negativity and doubt as to what tomorrow holds for us. It looks like this generation is lost; I can only pray that the next will show their mettle and regain the respect in which we were once held during the era of Jamal Abdel Nasser,Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz and the one man able to hold all Palestinians together Yasser Arafat. Those leaders had their faults but the one common thread that bound them together was the courage of their convictions. They didn’t bow their heads to foreign powers and were never fearful of speaking their mind.

I’m at the end of my rope, constantly worrying about the fate of our Arab nation – or even whether it exists at all – and I know that there are still a few true Arabs who are as exhausted as I am trying to warn our leaders to change direction. With the Arab League in disarray due to the Arab Spring, I genuinely believed that GCC heads of state would guide us and protect us. But now that I’ve seen their emissaries kowtowing to Iran, I think only God can help us now.

All I can do is leave those in power with some food for thought from the late Martin Luther King Jr. who once said, “Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people”.

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