August 27, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2493

Palestinian Intellectual on the Arab World's Double Standard

August 27, 2009
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 2493

In a recent article titled "Why Do We Condemn Only the [Israeli] Occupation?" Palestinian intellectual Ahmad Abu Matar, who resides in Sweden, criticized the hypocrisy and double standard which, in his opinion, prevail in the Arab and Islamic world. Abu Matar argued that the reaction to crimes in the Arab and Muslim world often depends on the identity of the criminal: Misdeeds perpetrated by a foreign force, such as Israel, tend to be harshly condemned, while those perpetrated by Arabs and Muslims against their fellow Arabs and Muslims are generally greeted with indifference, and in some cases even condoned.

Following are excerpts from the article: [1]

"The Arab Mentality is Flawed and Inconsistent When It Comes to Judging Actions and Deeds"

"The Arab mentality is flawed and inconsistent when it comes to judging actions and deeds. Logical and objective [judgment] requires that identical deeds be judged identically, regardless of who is responsible for them. A good deed merits praise, whatever the identity, religion or nationality of the one responsible, whereas a bad deed deserves condemnation, whatever the identity, religion or nationality of the one responsible.

"But the Arabs and Muslims, in their mentality and practices, ignore or violate this maxim, despite the Islamic teaching that 'he who remains silent in the face of [a distortion of] the truth is a dumb devil'...

"Following are some of the main issues in which [this problem is evident]:

Defining "Occupation"

"There is a general agreement among cultures about the definition of the term 'occupation.' It is [generally] assumed that there is no such thing as 'nice occupation' that should be praised, versus 'nasty occupation' that should be opposed. There is only one [kind of] occupation, and there is no disagreement about its definition.

"[The only exception to this is provided by] the Arab mentality, which harps only on the Israeli occupation of Palestine in 1948. The occupation of the cities Ceuta and Melilla [in North Africa], conquered by Spain nearly 500 years ago, is not mentioned in any Arab school curriculum.

"The same is true for Iskenderun [Alexandretta] province, seized by Turkey [from Syria in the 1930s], which has [likewise] been completely forgotten by the Arabs - so much so that the Syrian regime under former president Hafez Al-Assad approved the present borders with Turkey, thereby confirming the province to be Turkish, and removed any mention of it as a Syrian province from the [Syrian school] curricula.

"This is also the case with the Arab Ahvaz province, occupied [by Iran] in 1925, and with the three islands of the Arab UAE that were occupied by the Iranian regime in 1971. Nobody ever mentions them.

"More than that - there are Arab writers who explicitly endorse term 'Persian Gulf' [instead of 'Arabian Gulf'], and argue that Iran, as a cultured country, has a greater claim to the three islands than the Bedouins of the Arab UAE and the Arabian Gulf.

"Using the same skewed logic, someone could make the unpatriotic claim that Israel - advanced, cultured and democratic - has a greater claim to Palestine than the struggling Palestinian people, who cause themselves more casualties than the [Israeli] occupation causes them. This, despite the fact that, according to common sense and international law, occupation is occupation, regardless of the identity and [cultural] level of the people whose land has been occupied.

"Based on this distorted Arab memory, the Arabs applauded Saddam Hussein when he occupied Kuwait in 1991, [and Saddam] played on the emotions of the ignorant masses when he said he would withdraw from Kuwait when [Israel] withdrew from Palestine. Can any [sort of] reasoning be more primitive and demagogical than that?

"Judging Murder According to the Identity of the Murderer

"...When a Muslim murders a Muslim, an Arab murders an Arab, or a Palestinian murders a Palestinian, it evokes no radical or belligerent [reactions] on the part of the Muslims, Arabs or Palestinians. But when a Muslim, Arab or Palestinian is murdered by an Israeli or European, they raise hell - even though murder is murder, regardless of the perpetrator's identity or religion.

"For example, thousands of pages have been written about the murder of the Egyptian woman Marwa Al-Sherbini [2] by a German man, and she has been termed a shahida. This murder - whose German perpetrator deserves the maximal punishment - raises a few questions regarding the double standards of the Arabs:

"What about the hundreds of murders perpetrated every month in the Arab countries under the false pretext of 'preserving [family] honor?' In most of these cases, a young woman is murdered by her brother or some other [male] relative. He declares it openly, and the women of the neighborhood, as well as the victim's family, greet him with sweets and cries of joy. Who writes or demonstrates against this [phenomenon]? Autopsies have revealed that over 95% of the girls murdered this way are virgins, which means that there was no 'violated honor' to cry over [in the first place].

"What about murder for expressing an opinion, which has become commonplace since the mid-20th century, and has become a source of fear for all Arab writers and philosophers - especially since the murder of Egyptian writer Farag Foda [by an Islamist extremist] on July 8, 1992? Farag resigned from the Al-Wafd party in protest over its alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1984 elections. He then tried to form a new party called Al-Mustaqbal, and was waiting for a permit from the parliamentary committee for party affairs. The Al-Azhar Scholars Front [3] launched a vicious attack on him, demanding a ban on the establishment of the party. [The Front also] published an announcement in the paper Al-Nour proclaiming him an infidel who must be killed, and some ignorant [Islamist] carried out this execution warrant. I say 'ignorant' because, when asked during his trial why he had assassinated Farag Foda, [the murderer] answered, 'because he is an infidel.' Asked which of Foda's books had caused him to consider [Foda] an infidel, he replied, 'I haven't read any of his books... I cannot read or write.'

"There are other examples - such as the assassination attempt against the [Egyptian] writer Naguib Mahfouz in October 1995... [Egyptian theologist] Dr. Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd likewise received death threats [that caused him to] flee Egypt for Holland over a decade ago. Now the Al-Azhar Scholars Front and [some] other organizations are waging a fierce campaign against the Egyptian Culture Ministry's awarding of a prize to [Egyptian intellectual] Sayyed Al-Qimni and [Egyptian philosopher] Dr. Hassan Hanafi...

"These physical and intellectual murders do not concern the Arabs and Muslims at all, and do not prick their conscience or arouse their fervor. This is because they are murders of Arabs by Arabs, or of Palestinians by Palestinians. But the murder of Marwa Al-Sherbini by a German, or of the Palestinian boy Muhammad Al-Dura by the Israeli army, evoked a torrent of tears, mourning and breast-beating, with the victims called shahids and calls for revenge heard [from every direction]."

Indifference to Hamas's Actions in Gaza

"[Now let us turn] to the shameful Palestinian situation... Consider the following report:

'Al-Zahhar: Hamas Will Prevent Fatah Activists from Attending [Fatah Conference in Bethlehem]

'On July 24, 2009, top Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said that [his movement] would not allow Fatah members in Gaza to leave for the West Bank in order to attend the sixth Fatah conference... Despite mediation [attempts] by the Egyptians, Al-Zahhar told journalists after the Friday sermons: "[We will] reward good deeds with good and bad deeds with bad."'

"We should ask the Al-Azhar scholars to interpret this [statement for us]! How many tears would we have shed had the Israeli occupation prohibited [these Fatah members from attending the conference]? Another report stated:

'Al-Zahhar: 'Abbas Not Wanted in Gaza

'Referring to the possibility of a visit by PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza, Al-Zahhar said: "This is completely out of the question for security reasons. How can Abu Mazen return [to Gaza] in the present security situation? How can we arrange a reception for him?"'

"Imagine that the Israeli occupation authorities had [prevented 'Abbas from visiting Gaza]. How many curses would the Arabs and Palestinians have hurled against the occupation? Al-Zahhar explained [the decision] by citing security reasons, as though he does not know who protects the Hamas leaders as they move around the Gaza Strip.

"[The third report refers to] the number of Palestinians killed in clashes between Hamas and Fatah. Since the Hamas 2007 military coup in Gaza... [the two movements] have been waging a war there. According to Palestinian sources, this internal struggle (which has nothing to do with the Israeli occupation) has resulted in 700 dead and 3,500 wounded or maimed, in addition to hundreds who have been imprisoned on both [sides].'

"Who among the Arabs and Palestinians has shed a tear over these fatalities? Who remembers them today, except their families? But the boy Muhammad Al-Dura - they are still writing ballads and laments about him, just because he was killed by the occupation.

"Palestinians killed by other Palestinians do not count. Sometimes [the slogan is] 'blood is not [as cheap as] water,' and sometimes blood is cheaper than sewage... [4]

"Finally, [consider] the following statement by Isma'il Haniya, prime minister of the deposed Palestinian government - that is, a government that is illegitimate in the eyes of the PA in Ramallah but perfectly legitimate in the eyes of Hamas in Gaza. On July 24, 2009, he told the Palestinian people that 'the road to Palestinian reconciliation is still long,' putting the blame for this on the Fatah leadership. The Fatah movement, for its part, put the blame on Hamas. The result on the ground is a long-term split between the West Bank and Gaza - which is manifested, [for example], by Hamas' threat to prevent Fatah representatives from leaving Gaza in order to attend their movement's convention.

"Not a single Palestinian, Arab or Muslim will protest these acts perpetrated by Palestinians against their own brothers; [nor will any protest] the closing of the Gaza or West Bank to members of the rival organization. But the closing of the Rafah crossing by the Israeli occupation - that was cause for much shouting and condemnation, as well as for calls to kill and annihilate [the enemy].

"This is the Arab double standard, which treats Arab misdeeds against Arab as a routine matter requiring no great scrutiny - whereas an identical act perpetrated by a foreigner against an Arab is treated as a heinous crime worthy of condemnation and punishment.

"Remember the common Arab proverb, which is realized in our daily lives: 'My brothers and I against my cousins; my cousins and I against the strangers.'"


[1], July 28, 2009.

[2] Al-Sherbini was an Egyptian pharmacist living in Germany. On July 1, 2009, she was murdered at the Dresden court by a German man whom she had sued for making racist remarks against her.

[3] A body of Al-Azhar alumni that does not officially belong to Al-Azhar.

[4] Abu Al-Matar also mentioned the genocide in Darfur, pointing out that the Arab and Muslim world largely ignores it and even rejects International Criminal Court decisions regarding it.

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