Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Opinion: In Morocco, Anger at Arab Collusion Against Gaza - Anouar Boukhars

The Daily Star (Lebanon), February 17, 2009 - I have just returned from Morocco where I witnessed first-hand the massive emotional reaction to Israel's brutal destruction of Gaza. Wherever I went, I could not help but notice the pervasive sense of popular anger and despair, powerlessness and humiliation, guilt and shamefulness. The country was a pot of boiling emotions and ardent indignation at both Israel's indiscriminate killing of innocent children and women and the stunning collusion of a number of Arab regimes in Israel's deadly assault on Gaza.

With few exceptions, no Arab leader has ever dared to openly legitimize and endorse a devastating Israeli war on fellow Arabs. However, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other so-called moderate Arab states showed no qualms about going to this length to tilt the regional balance of power from their "radical" Arab rivals, rather than setting aside their personal feuds, tribal mentalities and mutual antagonism for the sake of the battered people of the Gaza Strip.

The crippling divisions and political posturing of all Arab authoritarian regimes were painful to watch. In a typical authoritarian posture, the eccentric Libyan leader, Muammar Gadhafi, blasted the "cowardly and defeatist" reactions of Arab leaders, while his son and probable successor, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, criticized Arabs for not holding their leaders accountable for their inaction during the Israeli offensive.

Not to be outdone, the Algerian Parliament passed a resolution that criminalizes any diplomatic or commercial relations with Israel. The Moroccan monarch, Muhammad VI, for his part declared that he would not stoop to the level of self-ridicule by taking part in any Arab summit marred by discord and a fatal inability to respond effectively to the continuing suffering of the people of Gaza.

In the face of this organized hypocrisy, the average Moroccan, Algerian, Libyan or Egyptian citizen was stuck with two unpalatable choices: to support or join forces with radical liberation or transnational revolutionary movements whose lack of a coherent strategic vision has brought chaos and destabilization to large swaths of Arab land; or to continue to bow down to a power structure dominated by corrupt and dependent authoritarian regimes. The causes of these dangerously conflicting and, at times, polarizing sentiments of the masses about their predicament have existed for generations, though the hardening of the rift between the two extremes has never been revealed with such stark acuity as it was during the Gaza confrontation....

Anouar Boukhars is an assistant professor of political science and director of the Center for Defense and Security Policy at Wilberforce University. This commentary first appeared at Bitterlemons, an online newsletter that publishes views on Middle Eastern and Islamic issues.

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