Arabs and dogs, revisited
Posted: Monday, March 3, 2003

By Firas Al-Atraqchi,

Last year, I wrote a piece called "The Arabs are Dogs," lamenting over the lack of Arab political will to address the deplorable situation in Jenin and other West Bank refugee camps. Not only did the Arabs do nothing about the plight of Palestinians, but instead persisted in offering Israeli Prime Minister Sharon an olive branch in recognizing Israel in return for political and territorial concessions. This marked the first time the entire 22-member Arab League publicly offered to recognize Israel.

Sharon was not impressed.

The Arab world was privy to images of Palestinians spitting on the ground at the mere mention of their Arab "brethren." "Oh, Arabs, where are you," one elderly woman shouted at an Al-Jazeerah television crew.

So, here we are again, a year later, and the Arab League has just met (at the heads-of-state level) to discuss Iraq and what now seems an inevitable war.

I would like to take this occasion and apologize for making a horrid statement like "The Arabs are Dogs." I hereby, in a most sincere an austere manner, do apologize.

I promise never to insult the canine species by associating them with Arabs. Canines adhere to loyalty and fealty in ways the Arabs never could. A dog will be by your side, and if treated well, may lie over your grave once you are gone.

An Arab will dance over your grave.

And that is precisely what is happening; the Arabs are beginning to practice their most saucy moves in anticipation of holding block parties over Iraqi mass graves.

Take, for example, the ineptitude of the current Arab League meeting. Libyan President Qaddafi hurled insults at Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah who hurled his insults back. Live transmission was immediately cut.

United Arab Emirates Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan delivered the message to the Arab League that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein should resign. Al Nahyan's son, Information Minister Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said the Arab League could not match his father's courage in telling Saddam to step down.

Egypt, however, kept pressing for diplomacy. The Kuwaitis refused to sign any final statement which called on Arab nations to refuse to assist the U.S. military. Syria warned that all Arabs were in danger.

The Saudis, for their part, pressured Iraq to cooperate with the U.N. to stave off a war. The Saudis have the most to lose. They fear a Shiite-led Iraq; they fear a revitalized Iraqi oil infrastructure; they fear a democratic Iraq (if such a thing could be envisioned) that would threaten to mobilize Saudi elements calling for democratic reforms.

Arabs, or the infamous voices of the Arab street, are insulted by their leaders who are not only uncouth, but also unsophisticated and uncultured as well. Sorry, but harnessing the wealth of your oil wells for 50 years cannot a civilization make.

That's the problem, eh. Most readers do not realize that most Arabs were living in tents and riding (or soliciting) camels a mere half century ago. Then came oil, followed by the Chevy, the Asian tenured slave workers, the marbled palaces and the bought-and-paid-for Oxford and Harvard education. Oh, and the spending sprees in Vegas, Monaco, Nice, and Los Angeles.

There have been three traditional spheres of political, historical, cultural, and intellectual power in the Arab Middle East: Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. These three helped shape Arab music, poetry, art, literature, etc.

Then came oil and yesterday's camel herder became today's prince.

In the mid-1990s, an Iraqi dissident told me that if the United Nations sanctions were not lifted soon, Iraqi civilians would turn on the rest of the Arab world and devour them in a hunger of rage, revenge, and madness. However, such feelings have been suppressed by the Iraqi government, which touts itself as a pan-Arabist beacon.

Today's Arab League meeting could not even muster the unity to pledge support for the Iraqi people.

So much for Arabist anything.

Oh, yes, and Mr. Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan's message has nothing to do with courage. Rather, it is the epitome of cowardice to address issues effectively, complacency in the face of a war the rest of the Arabs dread, and hypocrisy from a leader who is protected by the U.S. military.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to walk my trusted dog.

[Firas Al-Atraqchi, B.Sc (Physics), M.A. (Journalism and Communications), is a Canadian journalist with eleven years of experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry.]

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