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My Neighbor Ros !! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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After a lovely evening in an old Damascene house where the courtyard invites the sky in, and as the artist was bidding us goodbye, a lovely elderly woman in a pink dress that contrasted with her white hair came in. The artist stopped and said to us this is my neighbor Ros, She is a Jewish woman. She hugged him and said I love you as I love God and the Torah (Old Testament). She turned to us and said there is no nicer or better person than this man. At the door, as we were leaving, the son of the artist arrived with his girlfriend and we were introduced to them. It was clear from their names that he is a Muslim and she is a Christian. I stopped for a moment and thought that in this small group of people we find followers of three religions, Christians, Jews and Muslims. I was always convinced that the problem in our region is not a religions problem, rather it is a problem of land, rights, sovereignty and dignity.

Muslims who follow what is going on in the Middle East will not be surprised by the results of Gallop polls, which discovered, after 6 years of research, that most Muslims do not see any contradiction between Islam and democracy, and they said the reasons of tension between the West and the Muslim world are political and not religious.

We, the victims of Western policies in our region, were not surprised to discover that the reasons of tension between the West and the Arab World in particular, are political. But the deliberate confusion, especially after the events of 9112001 between Arabs and terrorists, and Muslims and terrorists, aimed, first and foremost, to allow occupiers both in Palestine and Iraq to kill the Arabs and transfer them under the pretexts of fighting terrorism and killing terrorists. This measure was necessary in order to implement plans without anyone in the world objecting to them. Otherwise how do we explain the dumb silence that engulfs the killing of women, young men and children in Gaza and the West Bank after they had been uprooted from their towns and villages in other parts of Palestine?

The speech of President Bush in front of the Israeli Knesset included a troubling phrase; he said:” Our two nations faced similar challenges at birth”. One wonders what is the challenge the U.S. had faced except the elimination of indigenous inhabitants and the total destruction of their way of life including their languages, culture and beliefs and the establishment of a new country on the vestige of the indigenous owners of the land. The question is: Is this the challenge faced by Israel in Palestine and by the U.S. in Iraq? i.e. is the challenge for them to prove that they are coming to save the Arabs by destroying their way of life and transferring them and uprooting them in order to allow settlers who had never been in the region to occupy their homes and grab their land and usurp their culture?

Yet the foreign minister of Israel says that the problem in Gaza has become a regional problem. I would like to add to that the racist measures taken against Arabs in Palestine, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia have become an international problem, because they contradict all Geneva conventions and humanitarian laws. It was not a coincidence that while President Bush was in the Arab world boasting his achievements in Iraq and Palestine it was announced that both Israel and the United States refused to attend Dublin Conference to ban the usage of cluster bombs. In Lebanon alone Israel threw over a million cluster bombs in its last days of attacks, and since the end of that war, hundreds of innocent children men and women have been killed or maimed in Lebanon. The U.S. and Israel once more express their lack of respect to human life, especially as cluster bombs are made in a way that is designed to attract children to their death; they are colorful and look like toys, could there be anything more cynical and inhuman? The other move that is not coincidental, either, is the refusal of the U.S. and Israel to attend human rights conference that was first convened in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 and that highlighted Israeli racist measures against Palestinians.

What we conclude from all this is that the U.S. and Israel adopt two track policies in the Middle East: the first one is to accuse Arabs of being terrorists and to kill them and imprison them and occupy their countries under that pretext while releasing a propaganda campaign to present the conflict as if it is a conflict between followers of different religions. The second track is to boycott international conferences which aim at making the world a safer place to all of us through highlighting and condemning racist and military measures which target civilians and undermine their rights and integrity. The latest racist measure in Israel against the Arabs is a motion to remove Arab language from the list of official languages and to demolish 3000 houses in the West Bank. Many people in the world started to see that problems in the Middle are neither Islamic nor religious; they are political problems and they revolve around political, social and human rights of people. But we have to write more and explain more what is truly happening so that more people from all religious faiths may join in the battle against racism, occupation and ethnic cleansing.

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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