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In the weekly Guardian of July 03 2007, the highly regarded feminist writer, Germaine Greer, wrote an article entitled “worlds Apart” about the indigenous people of Australia, the Aborigines and the decision of the Australian Prime Minister to send the army to tackle child abuse and alcoholism in the aboriginal homelands. Greer argued that this campaign will only make things worse. She opened her article with a very significant and telling paragraph:

“Ever since white men set foot in Australia more than 200 years ago, they have persecuted, harassed, tormented and tyrannized the people they found there. The more cold-blooded decided that the most humane way of dealing with a galaxy of people who would never be able to adopt with the {Whitefella} regime was to eliminate them as quickly as possible, so they shot and poisoned them. Others believed that they owed it to their God to rescue the benighted savage, strip him of his pagan culture, clothe his nakedness, and teach him the value of work. Leaving the original inhabitants alone was never an option; learning from them was beyond any notion of what was right and proper”.

At essence the conflict was between the white man’s absolutely material way of life and their environment, nature, social milieu and whose needs are fundamentally different from those of the white man. Hence, the white man abused and harassed the indigenous people and exposed them to torture and death if they speak their mother tongue. I saw the pictures of men and women shackled, given numbers, prevented from using their names, beaten if they speak to each other in their language, and those were very artistic people with very subtle and spiritual culture. Similar measures were taken by the French against the Algerians ho were imprisoned and killed if they spoke Arabic.

As an Arab woman living in the 21st century and deeply feeling the pain of my brothers and sisters in Iraq and Palestine I feel that the white man’s crimes against the indigenous aborigines and the native Americans are revisiting Arab countries today targeting Arabic language and the spirituality of Arab culture and its moral, civilized and historical values.

Despite the existence of the good will of so many people in the West who are trying to put the end to the American crisis in Iraq I feel they have no idea of the human, social, cultural and historical price paid by the people of Iraq and Palestine, as well as Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia as a result of white man’s attempt to impose his style of life on people who have been here for thousands of years and who enjoy a different set of values and cherish a different way of life which is certainly “different” but not necessarily less valuable or less enjoyable. Senator Lugar, for example, submitted an impressive presentation about the necessity for his country to pull out of Iraq, as few others did, but nowhere I saw a true estimation of the catastrophe that has befallen the Iraqi people on every count and the indescribable pain inflicted on them as a result. Since the American occupation of Iraq a million Iraqis have been maimed and they are in a desperate situation and need help, over eight million Iraqis are displaced inside and outside Iraq and over a million Iraqis have been killed. This certainly mounts to the social and human destruction of the social and historical fabric of Iraqi society as it is known in modern times. That is not to mention the cultural, educational and archeological loss of precious rudiments of the identity of Iraq.

The same and more is true in Palestine, as Israeli settlers are stealing Palestinian land (see Haaretz editorial July 08,2007) killing them, poisoning their water, destroying their culture and language. The strategy of both, the Israelis in Palestine and the Americans in Iraq, is to destroy the Arabs, the indigenous people of this land and establish a different Middle East, but history of the Arab nation and the reactions so far both in Iraq and Palestine show that this nation is indestructible. Despite the insurmountable pain the Iraqi novel is recording new heights and the Palestinian art is dazzling. The answer to imposing a material way of life through military means is more culture and more art and deeper spirituality and warmer social relations. It is not by chance that God Almighty chose this land for the prophets of the three monolithic religions. Western armies and settlers are only making the cycle of pain longer but there is no doubt that we, the Arabs, shall stay here and thrive again, while the occupiers and settlers shall leave sooner or later, in one ay or another.

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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