Are Arabs losing interest in Palestine?

The results of an online survey were quite astonishing; 71 per cent of the respondents affirmed that they do not care to know anything about the peace talks with Israel.

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The Al Arabiya news channel conducted an online survey over the past week to gauge the extent to which ordinary Arabs are still interested in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. The results were quite astonishing; 71 per cent of the respondents affirmed that they do not care to know anything about the subject. "This is an alarming indicator. The Arabs, people and regimes alike, have always been as interested in the peace process, its developments and particulars, as they were committed to the Palestinian cause itself," according to Saleh Qallab, a columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

Sick of waiting and too tired of peace summits and now proximity talks, Arabs have come to the bitter conclusion that nothing has changed 18 years after the Oslo Accords, except for a greater appreciation of Israelis for rightist, radical leaders. Even Palestinians in Gaza are indifferent to visits by the US peace envoy George Mitchell to the region. Gazans could not care less about what happens in diplomatic meetings and political photo ops. All they want is for the Israeli-enforced siege to be lifted. "By no means does this mean that the Palestinians have given up on their own cause [?] it's just that they realise that the peace process they have bet on a long time ago has simply been a cover for systematic Israeli repression."

Afghanistan is still a big headache for the US president Barack Obama, and the big the conference of donating countries held earlier this week to gather funds for rebuilding the country is not yet changing that.

Hardly a day passes without US or Nato troops getting killed by the members of the country's lethal tripartite coalition: the Taliban, the Jalaladdin Haqani militias and al Qa'eda, according to an editorial in the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi. Afghanistan is far more challenging to the US than Iraq, both politically and militarily. The sacking of Gen Stan McChrystal and replacing him with the chief of US troops in Iraq less than two months ago is one key indicator of the depth of the US military's confusion on the Afghan front.

"The US's problem in Afghanistan is not really the mighty Taliban movement, it is rather the weak Afghan president Hamid Karzai and his inability to take control of the country, not to mention the corruption of his government and immediate circle." Mr Obama made his troops' mission all the more difficult when he announced that US forces are pulling out by the end of next year, for it makes no sense for the Afghans to co-operate with troops that are leaving in about year's time. If they do, they will have to answer to a Taliban government that will be quick to take over after the US withdrawal and will charge them with collaborationism and high treason.

The national journalists' syndicate in Morocco protested against "racist" police actions toward Moroccans on the crossings in and out of the disputed enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta on Wednesday, according to the Moroccan online newspaper Hespress. Morocco still lays claim to the Spanish-controlled cities and considers both a part of its territory. Thousands of Moroccans enter the cities on a daily basis for the purposes of trade, business or tourism, which occasionally causes friction between travellers and police on the borders.

The protestors stood before the Spanish general consulate in the north-eastern city of Nador and vented their anger at the repeated physical and verbal abuse Moroccan travellers are subjected to. Spain's problems in the enclaves stem from a deeply rooted culture of racism among the police, said Jamal Issa Dardori, the protest's moderator. "And if our northern neighbour is unable to restrain its police, things may get challenging in the future." During the protest, Moroccan reporters also complained about being barred, having their cameras confiscated or even being threatened when trying to legally enter the disputed cities.

Almost half a century, after the charter of cultural unity was issued in February 1964, Arab joint cultural progress has remained an unattainable dream, wrote Wahid Abdul Majid, the director of the Ahram Centre for Translation and Publishing, in the opinion pages of the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

The irony here is that Arabs are united by culture - yet it has, for a long time, occupied the bottom rung of co-operative agendas. The status quo has been in place even before the creation of the charter. Moreover, the Arab cultural charter's preamble states clearly: "The unity of culture and thought is the fundamental basis for Arab unity." But this may be changing soon. The last Arab summit in March pushed for the idea of an Arab cultural summit. Until now, the only two non-political summits that the Arab League has held have been along social and economic lines. In an era of knowledge and superior communications, Arabs do need to start working together on the cultural front; joint projects within specified time frames would prove beneficial for much talked of Arab unity. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi