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August 25, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 4098

Saudi Columnist Calls on Arabs to Learn from Israel's Handling of Protests

August 25, 2011
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 4098

In an article in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Saudi academic and writer Amal 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Hazzani called on the Arab rulers to learn from Israel's handling of the social protests there, contrasting the swift measures taken by the Israeli government and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's use of military force against his own people.

Criticizing those who claimed that Israel's strikes in response to the attacks in Eilat had been meant to distract attention from the protests in the Israeli street, Ms. Al-Hazzani aked how Palestinians and Arabs could condemn this expected response while keeping silent over the Syrian army's shelling of the Al-Ramal Palestinian refugee camp in Latakia. She added that in contrast to the Israeli government, which clearly defined and took action against its enemies but maintained respect for its own citizens, the Syrian regime defined Syrian citizens who threatened the regime's legitimacy as the enemy, but had relinquished its legitimate borders in the Golan Heights

Following are excerpts from Ms. Al-Hazzani's article:[1]

"We rejoiced when the contagion of the Arab revolutions reached Israel. We said that this was an unintentional direct hit, that the Israeli street would revolt and demand to topple the regime – which would lead Netanyahu, who [at the time] was traveling abroad, to rush back to Tel Aviv and mobilize the Israeli army in full force to suppress the protestors. [We said that] he would fire live ammunition at them, and humiliate them by beating them with shoes, throwing them in prison, and sending them the mutilated corpses of their children. Then, [we said,] the Hebrew state would crumble, weaken, and collapse, and would ask America for help; disputes would arise among [Israel's] leaders; [Israel] would go from being strong to feeble; and the long story of Israeli tyranny would end, without a single Arab batting an eyelash.

"But this joy did not materialize. Unfortunately, Netanyahu disappointed us. While he did, in fact, wake up and return [to Israel], it was not in order to massacre his citizens, but to contain the crisis and propose swift solutions to what the street was demanding. He felt concern over the [public] anger toward him. It is said that he and his ministers did not sleep for a week, staying up nights in order to study tactical and strategic plans to meet the protestors' demands. And, fearing that the people would not think that he was in earnest, he established a committee of academics at Haifa and Tel Aviv Universities and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to serve as his mouthpiece vis-à-vis the public, and he committed to accepting whatever [this committee] proposed.

"It was the protestors who set the demands, accusing Netanyahu's government of failing to [ensure] social justice, and of failing to notice that the youth among the Israeli people had grown in number over time – and that these same youth would marry and need higher wages, more reasonably priced housing, advanced healthcare, and lower taxes.

"[These] protests had nothing to do with the revolutions against dread, abuse, intimidation, or threats, but [arose] out of a desire for a better life. Netanyahu, who loves quarrel and strife, who is prepared to enter brutal wars to rescue a [single] Israeli soldier and to take over neighboring lands for the sake of his country's future, was forced to 'lower the wing of submission through mercy' [Koran 17:24] over the Israeli citizen and appease him by courting his affections – because he knows very well that this citizen brought him to power and can [just as easily] remove him from it.

"In Syria, unbelievably, Bashar Al-Assad has recently deployed his tanks, nearly rusted [in place] from inactivity, against his own people who were demanding reforms – and he has [only] tightened his grip on the presidential throne, even though the Syrians in all of Syria's cities call for his ouster.

"The strange political commentaries that came out of Gaza... according to which the latest Israeli strikes on Rafah, which caused the deaths of six Palestinians, were intended by Netanyahu's government to distract attention from the revolution [within Israel] and to distract the Israelis from their demands, came as no surprise – even though these strikes came against the backdrop of attacks on two Israeli buses in Eilat.

"The truth is that Netanyahu is a man who honors his people whether he wants to or not, and he dares not cheat them with such machinations... hoping to dodge responsibility. The Israeli people do not fall for the politicians' ruses. They are not like some South Lebanon residents used by [Hizbullah leader Hassan] Nasrallah as a human shield in the 2006 war; [he] destroyed their homes and towns while they clapped along to his hymns of resistance.

"It is true that Israel's strikes in Gaza came by way of distracting the people of the revolution, but which revolution? Not the revolution in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Acre, and Haifa – but the revolution in Homs, Der'a, Hama, and Deir Al-Zour. At an inopportune time, unknown gunmen attacked two Israeli buses near Eilat, killing six Israelis. Then, the expected occurred – Israel retaliated twofold. Naturally, Netanyahu did not reward Gaza with Turkish Delight and Iranian pistachios, and when he acted, and Gaza was blown up by missiles and the innocent Palestinians torn to shreds, the Arabs rushed to condemn [Israel], the Arab League woke from its slumber to condemn and censure, and the Palestinian presidency even complained to the Security Council about the oppressive strike.

"We heard no such loud voice when the Syrian forces crushed the Al-Ramal refugee camp in Latakia. What is more, Fatah Central Committee member 'Azzam Al-Ahmad dared to offer explanations for this crime that had no grounding [in fact] – [for instance,] that the Syrian army could not avoid the camp because it was in its way, and that for this reason it was forced to include it in its military activity!

"If only some of the Arab leaders would emulate Israel's leaders in their precision in defining and dealing with their enemies. The Israelis see anyone who tries to revoke their right to the land as an enemy, and treat them as an enemy in speech and in deed – but they consider the rights of the Israeli citizen to be a red line.

"In contrast, Syria's leaders see as an enemy anyone who poses a threat to their remaining in power, even if he is a Syrian citizen – while the lands of the Golan, sadly, are a green line."

Endnote:

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 23, 2011.

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