Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why do Arab rulers want a ceasefire in Gaza but not in Syria?

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Deconstructing cruelty in Arab societies
On average, over one hundred people, many of whom are civilians, have died every day in Syria for the past 20 months. The Syrian government says that it is fighting terrorists financed by Arab rulers and the Turkish Islamist government. The rebels say they are fighting a non-democratic regime. Nearly twenty other Arab rulers govern without a public mandate. The rulers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar insist that Bashar Assad step down or be removed by force because the Syrian people want him gone. Yet, they ignore the fact that the Arab peoples want them all gone, not just Assad.

For just five days now, Israel and Gaza armed groups have exchanged fire that has resulted in 70 people dead (67 Palestinians and 3 Israelis), over 600 hundred Palestinians wounded, and hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed. Since the firing of the first missile, the Arab rulers have pressed Egypt and Turkey to mediate a ceasefire and called on world leaders and international organizations to act “to stop Israeli aggression.”  The Qatari ruler, the main supplier of deadly weapons to Syrian militias, headed to Egypt to press President Morsi to help end the violence in Gaza. So what gives? Are Arab rulers finally giving up on violence and embracing peace?

While some countries, including Russia and China, called for a ceasefire in Syria, the majority of Arab rulers threw their support behind a newly formed body called the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (SNCORF). The latter vowed to continue to fight the regime and insisted that it would not negotiate or accept a ceasefire until Assad is ousted and all his security forces are dismantled. Days before that, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s proposed three-day ceasefire to allow for peaceful celebration of a religious holiday was not honored. In contrast, just five days after the start of the recent flare of violence in Gaza, the Arab rulers are suddenly eager to talk peace. They are calling on world leaders to pressure Israel to agree to a ceasefire.

The Arab rulers’ double standard is robbing them of any credibility they had left. They are increasingly seen to be trading with civilian blood to achieve their political goals. Importantly, they are inculcating a racist message when they suggest that the lives and dignity of Arabs can be abused by other Arabs but not by Jews and non-Arabs. They cry foul when Israel attacks armed groups, but they supply Islamist groups with deadly arms that prolong a civil war in Syria. They want the world to believe that Israel is an “aggressor” because it caused the death of 67 civilians, yet they are arming warring factions in Syrian to prolong a war that killed nearly 50,000 people. The Arab rulers need to be reminded that victimhood, like aggression, does not have a nationality, a race, or a religion. A victim is a victim regardless of the identity of the abusers, and oppression is oppression regardless of the identity of the oppressed.

Arab rulers are using the plight of the Palestinians to score political points, and they are vilifying Jews for the same acts of cruelty Arabs inflict on each other. They want the Gaza war to end so that it does not expose their impotence. They want the Syrian war to continue because it serves their narrow sectarian and nationalistic interests. They also want the Gaza war to end so that they are not asked to arm the Palestinian groups with the same weapons they are sending to the Syrian Islamists. The double standard Arab rulers have adopted exposes their hypocrisy, shortsightedness, and supremacist attitudes.

* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

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