A deep cultural conundrum

An Arabic-language commentator examines how intellectuals have approached the situation in Syria. Other topics: birth defects in Iraq and the situation in Sinai.

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The moral stance of Arab intellectuals on the Syrian revolution is indeed perplexing, wrote the Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

"It is a grave mistake to discuss this baffling stance in light of the Syrian people taking up arms in the face of the regime's military machine," he said. "For months, the people were unarmed in defying guns and killing … and amid the pictures of the regime's troops and thugs trampling on captives, dubious and critical shouts would rise nevertheless."

It was the Syrian poet Adonis who made known the first excuse against the uprising when he rejected that the demonstrations were departing from mosques, the writer remarked.

But this cultural and political phenomenon is deeply rooted in a leftist discourse, of which the only relic is the "banner of anti-imperialism" that has become a stalking horse to hide their political subordination and voluntary support of dictatorship.

This attitude stems from an intellectual conundrum, not just individual attitudes. Some of these are a bit innocent - a case in point is the stance of Iraqi poet Saadi Yousuf - and some are furious and pathetic, but they all converge in backing the tyrannical regime because the Arab revolution is, according to them, a US conspiracy aimed at extending hegemony on the Arab region, he observed.

"Just like that, the US turned against its allies, Mubarak and Ben Ali, and its tameable friend Muammar Qaddafi, to reach the resistance stronghold of Syria's Assad," he wrote.

"Weird logic, but it draws on a set of ideas that backed … genocide in Chechnya and mourned the collapse of dictatorships in Eastern Europe," he noted. "Because these ideas are enslaved by the mindset of the Cold War, under which peoples and nations are treated only as pawns on an international chessboard."

But this complicated cultural reality has given a boost to the rationale behind the brutality of the regime that is given further excuses on a daily basis, he went on.

The issue, which on the surface seems to be indicative of different political orientations, reflects, in the writer's view, an intellectual paradigm that finds its roots in what can be labelled as "intellectual superiority" - where the thoughts are too preoccupied with results and do not give a hoot about details.

The problem of the Arab revolt with such intellectuals was that it was quite surprising, lacking all the features they are used to reading about in books. It was just a revolt by the people who could no longer put up with dictatorship and took to the streets to break the fear, he wrote.

The intelligentsia were supposed to follow suit, but many were too terrified to do so, electing to let down people's sentiments, thinking that oppression is only a culturalist matter about banning a book or a movie.

Unborn kids pay for US-UK war in Iraq

A recently published UK report shows that the number of cases of Iraqi children born with deformities has risen dramatically since the US-led invasion in 2003, wrote columnist Amjad Arar in yesterday's edition of the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

"The study which appeared in Britain - and should really have been carried out by Arab states - talks about toxic levels of lead and mercury pollution, causing congenital deformities in a significant number of newborns," the columnist said.

The responsibility of the US in this "catastrophic reality" is evidenced in the fact that a concentration of these congenital defects has been recorded in the city of Fallujah, where US forces carried out two virulent assaults eight years ago, killing large numbers of Iraqis and leaving many others injured or with disabilities. Never mind the destruction of the city's infrastructure.

"Fallujah is today known not only for its high rate of newborns with deformities, but also for large numbers of patients dying of cancer as a result of the heavy use of depleted-uranium ammunition and white phosphorus bombs," the columnist said.

Medical reports have revealed uncommon types of cancer in Basra following the occupation, that saw an unprecedented increase from 70 cases per annum in the 1990s up to more than 300 currently, he added.

These figures lead one to almost lose hope over a recovered Iraq.

Urgent development is answer in Sinai

Following the success of Egyptian forces in the recent antiterrorist Operation Eagle in Sinai, news reports revealed that authorities in Cairo have received intelligence about plans by jihadist groups to execute large-scale assaults on security centres in the area using car bombings, said the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan in its lead editorial.

"This raises questions about what is really happening in Sinai," added the paper.

Since the beginning of Operation Eagle, there have been various interpretations of the situation coupled with increased security fears of retaliation actions.

"There is talk of 3,000 to 5,000 militants and militiamen operating in the middle of Sinai and controlling large expanses, as well as Al Qaeda affiliated groups that use state-of-the-art weaponry," said the paper.

Some analysts suspect an Israeli implication in the unrest that aims at distracting Egypt through a war of attrition. The suggestion isn't far-fetched, since Israel has always tried to weaken its neighbours to guarantee its own predominance in the region.

Amid this ambiguity, the one truth is that the development of Sinai would be the right solution for the situation - otherwise Sinai will be a constant bleeding wound that exhausts Egypt's capabilities, suggested Al Bayan.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk