18 December 2006

More guilt? Pile it on!

With all the readiness of the Elders to accept the guilt for everything that goes wrong in the world, sometimes even our most battle-worn guilt-takers are made speechless by the brand new guilt items our Arab cousins are schlepping in to add to the accumulated mountain.

I wanted to mention and to link to that exceptional article by Ratna Pelle, but upon the second thought, decided to post here an extensive quote: after all, who knows, there may be people who actually read long posts... It starts with the quote from an interesting interview: Pierre Heumann of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche spoke with Al-Jazeera Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Sheikh in Doha. Yes, the one of the "don't bomb us" fame.

(Ahmed Sheikh:) In many Arab states, the middle class is disappearing. The rich get richer and the poor get still poorer. Look at the schools in Jordan, Egypt or Morocco: You have up to 70 youngsters crammed together in a single classroom. How can teachers do their jobs in such circumstances? The public hospitals are also in a hopeless condition. These are just examples. They show how hopeless the situation is for us in the Middle East.

(Pierre Heumann:) Who is responsible for the situation?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important reasons why these crises and problems continue to simmer. The day when Israel was founded created the basis for our problems. The West should finally come to understand this. Everything would be much calmer if the Palestinians were given their rights.

Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?

I think so.

Can you please explain to me what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to do with these problems?

The Palestinian cause is central for Arab thinking.

In the end, is it a matter of feelings of self-esteem?

Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West's problem is that it does not understand this.
That is it. It is the red-toothed Zionists that are guilty in the fact that in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco 70 pupils are stuffed in one room and the public hospitals are hopeless. And the link from the Zionists to the pitiful condition of the schools and the hospitals is easily explained: the collective ego of the 350 million Arabs, hurt and humiliated by the mere existence of the relatively prosperous Israel, does not let the owners of the ego to dedicate some time to the mundane problems of day-to-day existence - like education of their children and the improvement of their hospitals.

Ratna analyses the interview in details in her article, it is a worthy read in its entirety. Just a quote from Ratna:
The question of Palestine is not 'central to Arab thinking' because the Palestinians are more oppressed than Arabs elsewhere in the Middle East, or in Chechnya or in Iran, but because the humiliation is felt as so much worse. 'Such a small country can defeat the Arab nation. That hurts our collective ego'.

The rest is, excuse me, nonsense.

There is one other worthy quote from Mr Sheikh in the original interview that, it seems to me, Ratna may have missed:
When I'm in the newsroom, I forget my personal background. I set aside my political convictions. The news story is sacred for me. One cannot change it. One has to broadcast the story, as it is. Unchanged.
Yeah. If the interview extensively quoted above was supposed to show a shining example of the professional Arab journalist (and some present Al Jazeera as a flagship of the modern journalism in the Arab world), imagine what the others are like...

Cross-posted on Yourish.com