Obama seeks to change US-Israel ties

In the wake of the recent US-Israeli stand-off, we can be certain that it was quite detrimental and costly for Israel," remarked Leila al Rahbani in an opinion article published in the Lebanese newspaper Al Safir.

In the wake of the recent US-Israeli stand-off, we can be certain that it was quite detrimental and costly for Israel," remarked Leila al Rahbani in an opinion article published in the Lebanese newspaper Al Safir. For a long time, politicians, academics and media leaders in America lived in "fear of punishment" that might follow any criticism of Israel's policies in Palestine. Washington has long offered its absolute support to the Hebrew state, subdued by the Israeli lobby in Congress. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has succeeded in controlling the political rhetoric in the US. Therefore, the recent public criticism by the US president Barack Obama of Israel's plans to build settlements marks an indifference to Israeli expectations of sustained explicit approval.

"It has become obvious that a certain faction of the American community has decided to break the barrier of silence towards Israel and its politics." This has led to an unprecedented public debate that was considered, not so long ago, taboo. Finally, Obama has succeeded in awakening his people out of their slumber to start questioning the rationale behind such an excessive support for Israel. What will be the consequences of this historical divergence? It is indisputable that Mr Obama will enforce sanctions on Iran to weather the tidal wave of disgruntlement coming his way.

One week after the deadly terrorist attacks that rocked Russia, it seems that the only hope in overcoming terrorism is to show justice to Muslims around the world, for it is long overdue, commented Mohammed al Ansari in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. It is this endless wait that produced terrorism within otherwise non-violent Islamic communities. No man is born wearing an explosive belt around the waist. People are driven to violence due to frustrating circumstances which, in many cases, are exploited to serve the interests of various groups.

"Our fathers and mothers brought us up into concepts of hope and dignity while they lived under the yoke of colonialism, without ever reverting to the notion of terrorism. This in itself proves that their faith does not harbour such a notion." Hence, world leaders must realise that their continuous neglect of the Islamic world's needs is the seed that spawned extremist organisations such as al Qa'eda, which breed on feelings of disappointment and defeat. The US president Barack Obama has been adopting a more sympathetic stance towards the Arab world and Muslims in general. This attitude has yet to be translated into firm and concrete actions. In the absence of responsiveness, the alternatives will be in the hands of radical groups who view themselves as victims and use this to justify violence.

The Algerian minister of interior Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni recently issued a resolution imposing the elimination of beards and the hijab from biometric passport photos - a resolution that caused an avalanche of protests. In this context, Khadir Bukayla, a columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi, wrote: "The battle against the beard and the hijab is fundamentally wrong. It gives the impression that there is a wide gap between the bearded and veiled on the one hand and the clean-shaved and made-up on the other."

Many of those who oppose the ministry's decision are calling for the interference of the Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to stop its implementation. However, it is a matter of public knowledge that any government decisions cannot be issued without Mr Bouteflika's seal of approval. The interior minister explained that his decision was in conformity with the regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. In the meantime, many other countries who deal with the same organisation did not order their nationals to shave their beards and remove their headscarves. If the government's claim to democracy and integrity is to be validated, it must opt to defend the choices of Algerians. "Rather than allow the civil aviation organisation to impose its conditions on the people, why doesn't the government force it to accept the choices of the people?"

In a comment piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan, Luai Kaddoumi wrote that the Afghan president Hamid Karzai seems to be a new and changed man. Only a year ago he was denouncing tribal chiefs for aiding and abetting Taliban. Now, after his sudden change of heart, the world is watching him stand before those same chiefs and declare that the Taliban may metamorphose into a national resistance movement in the face of constant foreign interference in Afghan affairs.

"Karzai feels like he's being asked to commit political suicide. That's his problem with Washington." He is increasingly being required to approve additional military operations against what is thought to be military targets that would later prove to be civilian, all the while having to accept the West's sudden sympathy toward Abdullah Abdullah, his rival in the last presidential elections. What Mr Karzai fears in truth is not the loss of more civilian lives in desperate raids on Taliban targets. What he fears most is to be ostracised by the international community and resented in his homeland. It seems that his best bid for maintaining power would be to revert to the tactic of antagonism towards western intrusions in his country.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem rmakarem@thenational.ae