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Away from Politics: Arab Women Sing - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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On the 60th anniversary of al “Nekbah”, it has become clear more than ever before that there are two worlds, two concepts and two future prospects for the Middle East, especially as far as the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned. The international media was busy highlighting the 60th anniversary of the birth of Israel to a total negligence of the plight and right of the Palestinian people. The Israelis, who take pride of the Balfour Declaration acted so flagrantly against the wording and the spirit of Balfour Declaration itself. When Balfour promised a national home for the Jews in Palestine, he stressed that “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. Balfour did describe the non-Jewish communities as “minorities” because they were not minorities and yet everything that Israel did during these sixty years was to undermine the rights, history, and the very identity of these communities, through killing, transfer and systematic erasure of indigenous people and replacing them with white and African settlers who have never been in Palestine.

It has become clear from the story of Palestine that serves as the Prism for the story of the Arabs, that the Arabs are losing their impact on the international scene. What is happening in Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia is a clear evidence of that. Moreover, the Arabs are losing their crafts, history and even language which are being replaced by non indigenous way of life. The international media is totally biased against the Arabs and the laws issued in the West after 9/11 have a racist tinge against Arabs and Muslims. The Arabs are watching in disbelief what is happening to them, hoping that somehow their rights will be returned and their future will be theirs. But the problem is that this aggression against the Arabs is no longer limited to the political domain: their culture, language, food and way of life are all under attack. A new strategy in this attack is the infiltration of Arab people, so that some of them will adopt the colonial agenda against his countrymen and fight them if necessary.

That is why Palestinian people, Iraqi people, Sudanese and the Somalis differ on the very definition of the national interests and how to defend these interests. Otherwise how do we explain some Palestinian negotiating with the Israelis but refusing to talk to their own brothers who fall with them under a cruel Israeli occupation? Hence, we can realize the arrogance of those targeting the Arab identity, as they possess the military means and the political methods to terrorize and subjugate the Arabs to their will. Added to this fact that international media is run, directly or indirectly, by people who occupy Arab lands

The factors which prolong and enhance this process have also something to do with the Arabs’ failure to understand, strategize and design the correct mechanism to face this new evolving and difficult reality. The Arabs meet, talk and issue statements, but they do not put the mechanisms or the money needed for implementation. Our enemies know this very well and build on it. As the Arab media has also become mostly receptive to international media, there is hardly any grand or credible source that presents the Arab perspective.

The best way out of this vicious circle is for the Arabs to change focus and highlight their points of strength from civilization to history, language, crafts and values for which they are renowned. There are so many conferences, festivals, panels and seminars held at an Arab level almost every day, but they are not highlighted and celebrated in the media, although they will be so heartening and encouraging to young generations if they were. To give only one example, Damascus as the Capital of Arab Culture embraced a number of Arab women singers from Morocco to Iraq who sang every evening in al Azem Palace, Damascus. It was interesting to see the thousands of people in the audience responding so warmly and heartily to every singer because the tunes, the culture, the history and the language, of course, are the same. In art, culture, literature and language, the Arab identity is deeply rooted and it is a source of pride to all of us. It is this identity that should be the focal point for all our efforts which aim to restore the balance in our favor. The political domain is no longer the only one that should be the focus of our attention, but the cultural, literary, legal, economic and artistic all should be taken very seriously. Once we do that we will be elevating the points of Arab strength which will obviously serve Arabs’ political stand and status. Once we do that, Israel would not dare to suggest erasing the word “Nekbah” from the lexicon of the U.N because this word embodies rights usurped, lands confiscated, towns and villages colonized and indigenous people killed or transferred, so it cannot be crossed without setting all these issues. The road to settlement, however, is not only political but it is cultural, economic, legal, historic, and artistic.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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