Syria diverting attention from internal unrest

Arabic editorials also discuss optimism in Egypt, Turkey's stance on Somalia and the remembering the UAE's founding father.

Is Syria trying to open up an Israeli front?

"All of a sudden, the sleeper front with Israel woke up. Two buses were attacked near Eilat, leaving seven Israelis dead; then, a Grad rocket was launched towards Ashdod, wounding six others. For its part, Israel did not miss the chance and raided Gaza and crossed the Egyptian border in an unprecedented breach," chronicled Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the pan-Arab Asharq Al Awsat.

Does this mess have anything to do with the embattled Syrian regime? the columnist asked. "Likely," he answered.

Provoking Israel is one way to distract public attention from what's going on in Syria. In fact, Bashar Al Assad's regime has previously tried but failed to ignite conflict with Israel to achieve the same purpose.

In one instance, soon after the uprising in Syria began, pro-Assad factions mobilised a couple hundred youths - in the name of the Palestinian cause - to throw stones at Israeli soldiers across the border.

They were met with live Israeli bullets.

This time around, it is Hamas, the ruling Palestinian faction in the Gaza Strip and the ally of Damascus and Tehran, that has opened conflict with Israel, after a period of relative calm.

"Which is quite confusing," the writer said. Agreeing to be used as a dust-kicking instrument by the Syrian regime will spell the end of Hamas.


Revolution's thrill hasn't worn off yet

Six months into the Egyptian revolution, the general landscape seems grim to many outsiders, but that's not the real picture on the inside, wrote Moghazy el Badraoui, in a column for the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan on Friday.

Yes, there seems to be a great deal of instability in Egypt: security is not complete; the economy is collapsing; regional and international support for the revolution is iffy; divisions among political undercurrents are coming to the surface; the rat race for power is looking hazardous and the remnants of the old regime are still observable.

Yet, despite all of these stumbling blocks, an air of optimism is wafting around the Egyptian scene. "It is expressed both by the ordinary people on the street, and by the elite of politicians, intellectuals, artists and former and incumbent officials.

"Not a day goes by without a talk show guest being asked: 'Are you optimistic about what's going on in Egypt?' And the answer is always swift and determined: 'Yes I am very optimistic'," he added.

There is something to justify this optimism. The deep thrill of having brought down an ironhanded 30-year-old regime has not yet worn off.

For many Egyptians, reassurance comes from this simple idea: whatever comes next can hardly be worse that what has already passed, and will be easy to overcome.


Turkey does better than Arabs on Somalia

Arab leaders must have been a little bit embarrassed to see the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, land in Mogadishu, the first Muslim leader to set foot in Somalia since famine, which now threatens to spread across the Horn of Africa, broke out, the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper said editorially on Friday.

Accompanied by four of his ministers, his wife and a delegation of business leaders and administrators, Mr Erdogan braved all the security hazards of an unstable Somalia to show material and moral support for four million Somalis at risk of dying of hunger.

"We haven't seen any Arab leader take the trouble to travel there to show some sympathy for brothers afflicted with famine and disease," the newspaper said.

True, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which is based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, held an emergency meeting in Istanbul and decided to allocate $350 million to fight famine in Somalia. "But it is also true that the initiative was put forward by the Turkish premier, who attended the meeting and played an important role in having the funds apportioned," according to the paper.

It is undeniable that a number of Arab relief NGOs were quick to respond to the distress call from Somalia, but the Turkish leadership has acted more intelligently.




Emiratis still cherish memory of Zayed

"The scene is still fresh in my mind. I was sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to Mecca … An Emirati woman sat close to me and she was speaking on the phone. Suddenly, she started weeping, with genuine sadness. I couldn't help but ask her: 'What's the matter? I hope it isn't too bad.' She said: 'Zayed died'," Khalifa Ali Al Suweidi wrote in the Friday edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

The 19th of Ramadan, corresponding this year to August 19, marked the seventh commemoration of the death of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the United Arab Emirates.

"Why did that woman, and many others like her, cry for Zayed?" the writer asked. "It's because he knew how to win the hearts of all Emiratis …

"Look at other Arab leaders, all those who chose to rule with an iron hand; one is still running away from justice and another actually being tried on his sickbed."

Zayed's story with his people was different.

"Whenever Sheikh Zayed's name is mentioned, people pray for his soul," the writer went on, "the soul of the man whose ultimate worry as a ruler was the welfare of his people, their education and good health."




* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi

Published: August 21, 2011 04:00 AM


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