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In the midst of media commotion in the Middle East, there are some pointers worthy of serious reflection. One such pointer is the news leak, during Rice’s visit to Israel, that the United States has promised Israel to modify its approach to building the “Greater Middle East.” The promised modification will enlist Israel’s participation in building democracy and instituting human rights in Arab states. Rice has gladly told the Israeli minister of foreign affairs that she spoke in the “Future” forum about involving Israel in the regional dialogue between Arab leaders, and the suggestion was received with Arab approved.

Another astounding piece of news is that the assassinations carried out by the Israeli government against Palestinian civilians were introduced to five Arab states as operational case studies and manual for combating terrorism. Ironically, the most prominent author of the manual, Dan Haluts, the Israeli minister of defense, cannot visit the United Kingdom due to law suits filed against him by British human rights organizations for committing war crimes against civilians. Yet, those very same crimes are presented by Israel as case studies for strategies to combat terrorism for NATO as well as Arab countries.

During the very same week, the British court exonerated a number of British soldiers tried for beating an Iraqi citizen to death, under the pretext that they were carrying out military orders. At the same time, and with the same justification, the Israeli court also exonerated the Israeli soldier who shot the thirteen year old Iman Alhams twice in the head and a third time in the chest, while she was carrying her books and heading to school.

In her extended visit to the region, and after long hours of negotiations, Rice was able to convince the Israelis of partially opening the Rafah crossing, to facilitate the movement of Palestinians in and out of Gaza. This is of course after checking their documents against Israeli data to make sure that they raise no qualms. So, Gaza now is the closest to a huge prison, similar to those where Indian Americans and Australian Aboriginals were once kept.

During that very same week all that Arab states did was failing at reaching a common statement for the “Future” forum in Bahrain, and rewarding Shalom’s visit to Tunisia with a symbolic gift: a house. Of course, there was no mention of the Palestinian father who donated his eleven year old child’s organs – after he was murdered by an Israeli soldier – to an Israeli child.

In the face of this new reality, could Arabs endure as people, using the same old concepts and means they have been using for decades? We still look back on the first half of the twentieth century as time of Arab renaissance. The fifties and sixties, and even the seventies, have witnessed liberal thinking and developmental drive that filled the Arab world with hope in a prosperous future. We fell too short of our dreams, and became a vulnerable prey to occupation, division and deformation that serve narrow colonial and racist interests. Eliminating Arab identity is not a crude plan of ethnic cleansing; it is systematic obliteration of its cultural, historical and political dimensions. This looming peril can only be challenged with higher awareness of our existence, more competent social, intellectual and political tools, and most important of all, daring transparency in the face of crisis.

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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