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Another Arab Voice - Ma'ariv


Another Arab Voice- Ma'ariv 26.2.08

Ma’ariv (p. B3) by Zvi Gabay (op-ed) -- The author is a retired ambassador, Middle East scholar and translator of Arabic poetry.

 Media attention is focusing on the boastful statements of leaders such as Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad, but it neglects the unheated voices of Arab intellectuals, who dare to stand as buffers against the despots, asking them harsh questions about social issues and human rights.

 These intellectuals express real concern for their people, who groan under the tyrannical regimes of leaders whose main concern is preserving their power. The linkage that the leaders make between dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict and the gloomy situation of the Arab nations is no longer acceptable to many people in Arab countries. However, they are unable to express their opinions in their own countries, and they publish their statements in Arabic newspapers that are published mainly in London.

 Among the intellectuals who dare to speak against accepted convention are the Saudi Arabian Ali bin Talal el-Jihani. In an essay that was published in Al-Hayat (December 11, 2007), he criticizes politicians, Sunni or Shiite, who use Islam to justify terrorism. He claims that this was forbidden by all streams of Islam “even before the coming of Khomeini and the ascent of his supporters in Lebanon and Palestine.” El-Jihani claims that terrorism in the name of Islam has damaged the Arabs and the true image of Islam.

 The poet Adonis, one of the most prominent philosophers in the Arab world, “clung” to the sides of the tent that the leader of Libya, Moammar Kadafi, demanded that his hosts in Paris set up for him, in order to ask: “Why was no tent set up for the poor, ignorant Arabs, who live on the fringes of society, in every city and village in Libya?” Two months before that, Adonis exposed the gimmick (Al-Hayat, October 7, 2007) of Syrian President Bashar el-Assad, who called for the Arabization of billboards in Syrian cities as an excuse to glorify the Arabic language.

 Adonis told Assad that the promotion of Arabic would come first of all “from the release of the intellectuals imprisoned for their opinions and their cultural outlooks”! Enough said.

 In the newspaper Ilaf, which is published in London, Khadeir Taher, an Iraqi Shiite, laments the ethnic struggles in Iraq in which, in his opinion, the Syrian and Iranian secret services have a hand. Besides, he also dares to note that “what happens in Lebanon and in Palestine” is the result of provocative acts by “the Iranian fools and mercenaries.”

 The author does not forget to note in the margins of his essay that if not for the newspaper in London, he would not be able to express his opinion.

 Abd el-Halek Hassin wrote on the Internet that the Middle East will not become calm until the elimination of “the fascist regimes in Syria and Iran and their burial together with the Iraqi Baath regime.” Only then, in his opinion, will it be possible to solve the problem of the Arab-Israeli conflict “by negotiations as conducted by Sadat, who won back all of his land without spilling one drop of blood.”

 To conclude this collection of statements, I will quote from the poem of Souad Mohammed el-Sabbah, “Woman in the Neck of a Bottle,” which was published in Al-Hayat (December 7, 2007): “My poem, my prose and the sparks of my mind/all of them pass through the neck of a bottle/a sword sets the date of my departing and a sword sets the date of my entering/I want to get back the right to scream/and the right to call challenge and the right to be angry/I want a place on the earth/where poems grow like grapevines/I want clean air and a clean mind/and freedom of spirit in the papyrus fields….” 

When Arabs win freedom of the spirit, repose will come to the Middle East.

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