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The Middle East as Seen from Australia - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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To a Middle Easterner, tired from the tragedies of the last Israeli war on Lebanese and Palestinian peoples, life in Australia seems to be a life on another planet. People’s concerns and the rhythm of their life are very different from that of the peoples of the blazing Middle East. To the comer from the Middle East the serene landscape in Australia would seem remarkable and the talk on sport games and weather forecast would sound an extravagant lifestyle.

Ever since world war two, people of Australia have been living a normal life not haunted by ghosts of war and war memories. Even the news broadcasts provide a lightened briefing on the Middle East affairs without going into details. The region’s news is epitomized in references, for instance, to a visit of the UN secretary general or probable efforts to revive peace talks or the arrival of UN troops to Lebanon for instance. However, almost nobody here, knows that since the Israeli “summer’s rain” aggressions started, 48 children and 12 women among other 240 unarmed Palestinians were killed by Israel; or has an idea how many Lebanese civilians have been maimed because of the cluster bombs Israel used in its aggression on Lebanon. Only few people, in the era of fast communication and free media, have seen the destruction Israel caused in Lebanon. Fewer were able to watch the photos of the massacres Israel committed in Qana, Marwahin, Rweiseh and Ashiah!

I discovered all this and more in one day; Thursday September 7. On that day, I delivered two lectures in Sydney, the first at the University of Western Sydney and the second at Macquarie University. In both lectures I displayed slide photos of the massacres committed by Israel in Lebanon which show children killed asleep in Qana, and the others whose bodies were torn in Marwahin, Ashiah,, Rweiseh and Aita Ashaab. When I finished, a dreadful silence and gloomy tense atmosphere prevailed as if my audience didn’t believe what they have seen.

To break the silence I asked if anybody has ever seen such photos. Only one answered that he has seen some on the Internet. I became more depressed than my audience were and realized that while we, in the Middle East, were anxiously and shockingly watching the news of the Israeli crimes in Lebanon, people in other parts of the world have no idea what is happening in our region.

Many rational and in-depth reactions to my lectures pleased me and enhanced my conviction that we could make ourselves heard in the west despite all the difficulties and obstacles. People in Australia can understand and feel the Arab causes if the truth about our region reaches them properly. What enhances this belief is that many people in Australia feel and realize the tragedy of the aborigines who suffered for centuries. Besides, the nature of the Australian people who descend from different origins from all over the world helps them to better understand and interact with the causes of other peoples.

Who looks at the Arab scene from this far country one realize that Arabs are in urgent need for a massive and organized advocacy program to inform the world about the reality of the conflict in the Middle East and to explain the facts about this conflict and its consequences. It is not true that the international community supports Israel in its daily crimes and aggressions against Arabs. Rather, the international community dose not know the reality of Israel’s acts because of the systematic and non-stopping campaign of misinformation that Israel directs all over the world. Honest people around the world will move to support and defend our just cause if they are informed about the reality of the situation in our region and if this reality communicated to the free world public opinion in a modern, comprehensible and clear language.

It is high time for Arabs to adopt efficient media strategies and to start a constant planned action to carry their causes to the international public opinion and put the reality of the conflict in the Middle East on the international screen. No honest woman or man could defend occupation and tolerate the killing of innocents. However, people concerned should boldly stand up for their rights and competently carry their message to the world.

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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