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Sami al-Haj and Gillian Gibbons - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In a report published in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper on Dec. 9, 2007, we read that 74% of Israeli youth believe that the Arabs are less intelligent and that they are violent. Two thirds of the Israelis believe that the Arabs are “not clean”, and half of the Israeli do not accept to live in a building where an Arab lives and do not allow an Arab to enter their homes, and do not allow their child to be with an Arab child. The Arabs are often humiliated and ridiculed at Israeli airports, the report adds. All this is not surprising to the Arabs who hear Israeli officials describing them as “cancer and snakes”. One Israeli official said the best way to look at a Palestinian is through the lens of M15 or M16. but the important point here is that this Israeli racism against the Arabs is finding its way to international media and to the hearts and minds of those who do not know, or even to those who are supposed to know better, or should know better, by the nature of their jobs. For example, after all the collective punishment that Israel is imposing on a million and a half Palestinians in Gaza and after killing 35 young Palestinian men since Annapolis Conference, we find Toni Blair, who is the envoy of the quartet for addressing the Arab – Israeli conflict, standing in front of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Israeli Knesset to say “I understand Israeli doubts in conducting negotiations after withdrawing from Gaza, instead of peace you had a “nightmare” and that is why you could not behave in the same way in the West Bank” Isn’t it difficult to imagine that Israeli daily crimes against the Palestinians in Gaza are a nightmare to the Israelis rather than to the Palestinians? After 9/11, Arabs and Muslims are suspects of doing terrorist acts, but no one speaks of them as victims of Israeli terrorism. As if it is no longer important what happens in reality, the only important thing is what is said by the media. The Western media, in one way or another, always describes those who carry on terrorist acts as Muslim extremists, but when Israeli Missiles kill innocent civilians in Palestine no one dares to describe Israeli acts as terrorist, or the Palestinians as victims of terrorism.

In order to compare between an Arab life and any other life, let us compare what happened to Sami al- Haj, the Cameraman from al-Jazeera, who was arrested by American forces in Afghanistan and deposited in Guantanamo, and between any western person who is detained in any Islamic country for any reason. Cecilia Sarkozy went to Libya to release Bulgarian nurses who injected hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, and president Sarkozy himself went to Chad to release French and Spanish citizens who are trading with Chadian children.

When the British teacher Gillian Gibbons was arrested in Sudan, the Western Media was all engaged in writing about her ordeal till she was released by a presidential decree. And then the writings started to speak of her 9 days ordeal. But no one made such a noise about years of unbearable ordeals of Sami al-Haj in Guantanamo, either in the Arab world, or in the West. He is a Cameraman and has not been tried, his health is deteriorating, he is being force-fed, his wife and children are waiting for him just as the family of Gillian Gibbons were waiting for her. No Arab leader took the plane anywhere to ensure his release, nor Arab Journalists union took his case to the European Parliament or the international court, nor did al-Jazeera stop airing anything by President Bush as a protest against detaining its cameraman without trial. Western governments and Western people stand up for the liberty and dignity of any Western man or woman anywhere. When are we going to imitate them and to consider the dignity and liberty of any Arab person as our own. liberty and dignity and to mobilize all resources in order to make the world aware of the humiliation to which the Arabs are unfairly subjected. The freedom of Sami al- Haj is the freedom of an innocent human being who should be immediately released. It is not enough to put his name on the news bar for years. Action should be taken to ensure his immediate release just as action was taken to release Gillian Gibbons!

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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