The following article by Khairi Abaza appeared in the Lebanese English-language daily The Daily Star on July 4, 2007.
"Arabs Will Not Progress Before They Face The Truth About Their Own History"
"As the current situation in Palestine worsens, let Arabs not forget their past. Events that are portrayed as victories by Arab politicians are not always victories for the Arab people. Last month,the Arab world remembered one of its greatest defeats of the 20th century: the June 1967 war, which marked the end of the hope to wipe out Israel and the loss of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, the Sinai, and the Golan Heights.
"Despite the memory of those losses, Arab media, from Al-Jazeera to Dubai TV, still tried to find an honorable excuse for the Egyptian president in 1967, Gamal Abdel-Nasser. This same distorted logic has been applied to movements such as Hizbullah and Hamas, whose defeats are often transformed into victories. No independent commission has ever assessed any of Abdel-Nasser's, Hamas's, or Hizbullah's declarations of victory. The Arab people must dig for the truth in the statements and behavior of these leaders or groups. We have allowed politics in the Arab world to be defined by slogans, not results. Our judgment of leaders can only be truly determined by what they do not just what they say.
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"Arabs will not progress before they face the truth about their own history. In memorializing the 1967 defeat, Arab media organized numerous talk shows, documentaries, and interviews. But none clearly defined who was responsible for the Arab loss.
"Instead, the media tried to remind us how Abdel-Nasser gave Arabs a voice and pride. They failed to remind us that because of his bluff and provocation, in June 1967 Israel was able to win a devastating war. They failed to remind us how Abdel-Nasser encouraged King Hussein of Jordan to take part in the war only hours after he knew that Egypt had been defeated – providing Israel with a reason to occupy East Jerusalem and the West Bank. And they never mentioned that in 1970 Abdel-Nasser was considering accepting the Rogers Plan for a peace settlement with Israel, with terms less favorable than the Camp David agreement later signed by his successor, Anwar Sadat. Instead, Arab media tended to stress that it was Abdel-Nasser who had planned the October 1973 war, which took place three years after his death, removing all credit from Sadat, who had truly led the battle.
"Some claim that while the June 1967 war was a military loss, the spirit of armed resistance endured. They believe that resistance is still the strategic choice of Arabs. We have seen the results of the strategic choice of violent resistance by Hamas: an ugly Israeli barrier depriving Palestinians of ever more land that has made their lives even grimmer. The slogans of resistance may incite support, but the consequences of these very slogans cannot be accepted by the Arab public. No one in the Arab world today would accept that Hamas' actions were a large part responsible for the Israeli barrier. There has not been and nor will there be independent assessment of Hamas' strategy. Slogans continue to trump the actual results of actions.
"The same strategic manipulation of public opinion can be seen in Hizbullah's 'victory' against Israel in summer 2006. But what was this victory? A victory that left around 1,200 Lebanese dead, led to billions of dollars in damages and losses in tourism income, and the entry of United Nations troops in Southern Lebanon? With such a balance sheet, how could Hizbullah and its Arab supporters mislead the Arab public and claim victory? Was any inquiry made? Where is the independent commission that studied Hizbullah's actions? Yes, the party's secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, was left standing, just as Abdel-Nasser was. But is that enough when their nations and people were left battered?
"When Will Arabs Have Independent Commissions to Look Into Their Mistakes and Evaluate Them Transparently"
"How can Arabs improve their lot if they do not face up to their truths? Why is it that Arabs have such a propensity to live amid lies? Why is it that so-called 'free' or 'independent' Arab media are apologists for those who mislead the Arab public? When will Arabs have independent commissions to look into their mistakes and evaluate them transparently?
"Don't expect any of the authoritarian Arab states or their client organizations to produce such commissions. Independent intellectuals and experts in the Arab world should work to create these uncontrolled commissions as a first constructive step in any broad Arab action to improve transparency and accountability. We deserve to understand our history and to learn about the realistic options for our future. Victories in the Arab world must reflect reality not derive from hollow slogans."