West biased by guilt towards Israel

The West's attitude towards Israel's inhumane practices goes beyond mere compassion to become a mixture of bias, consent and even defence.

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"The question about the West's sympathies with Israel is always old, always new. It can still be asked today, tomorrow and every time the West turns a deaf ear to the values of justice, impartiality and human rights," wrote Soliman Abdul Munaim in the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds. In fact, the West's attitude towards Israel's inhumane practices goes beyond mere compassion to become a mixture of bias, consent and even defence. Western reactions to the recent assassination of the Hamas commander Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Dubai only corroborate this view.

This persisting western empathy with Israel is due to a number of reasons. First, the historical sense of guilt westerners feel with respect to the persecution, mass murder and repression that the Jews were subjected to in Europe during the Second World War. This is most manifest in Germany which, until recently, has been paying Israel significant amounts of money in compensation for what the Jews experienced under the Nazis.

Second, the West is empathetic towards Israel because it deems it to be a democratic state, a view it doesn't extend to any of the Arab states. But if the primary reason is this persistent sense of culpability, then why does the West feel no remorse about what the Palestinians have been enduring for decades at the hands of the Israeli occupation?

"Has the no-war no-peace chapter in the Middle East already ended, or is it, at least, coming to an end? That's what it looks like," wrote Saad Mehio, a columnist with the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej. Whenever there is positive talk about peace, especially between Syria and Israel, sudden prospects of war emerge. While Israel is getting ready for war as if it would happen tomorrow, the Israeli army has leaked information to the effect that it deems peace with Syria to be a very convenient exit out of the strategic predicament it is in these days, sandwiched as it is between the imminent Iranian nuclear bomb and Hizbollah's rockets.

Fearing a major escalation in the region that could be harmful to its own interests in Iraq and the Gulf, the United States still refuses to give Israel the green light to strike Iran. But when it comes to the prospect of war with Lebanon and Syria, all lights are blurred. "The US is consistently sending out messages - on a daily basis, apparently - to Israel and Syria urging them to exercise restraint. At the same time, however, Washington conveys tacit threats to Syria by insinuating that it can't hold back Israel forever."  This equivocal US stance sounds alarms in Damascus and across the Arab world.

The West is concerned about the new Turkey that is currently taking shape after the Turkish military suddenly surrendered to the executive power of the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wrote Mazen Hammad, a commentator with the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. "Arresting senior officers is such a serious development, for no one in Turkey has dared to lay a finger on the military body before."

Now a number of questions are arising about the future of post-revolutionary Turkey, a country whose army has been the foremost guardian of the principles of secularism for 85 years. "As Baskin Oran, a professor of international relations at Ankara University, has it: it's over now. The country is sloughing off its skin and seems to be quite nervous because it doesn't know what will happen next."

Now that Turkey has stepped into this uncharted territory, there is great concern among millions of secular people in the country who fear that the ruling Justice and Development Party, which adheres to a moderate Islamic ideology, will clamp down on their rights.  Turkey, then, is on the brink of a dramatic change, which will push western countries to start reassessing their strategy towards the country as it further embraces its Islamic character.

As expected, the Arab ministerial committee in charge of the Arab Peace Initiative follow-up has approved the US proposal to begin indirect peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi wrote in its editorial.  The US administration is putting extraordinary pressure on the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas - namely by threatening to suspend financial support for the Palestinian Authority - to make him ditch his stated decision to boycott peace talks until Israeli settlements in the West Bank are completely frozen.

Resorting to a "defunct" Arab committee to regenerate a "rotten" initiative is then an obtrusive attempt to provide an Arab cover to the Palestinian president's relapse. "For sixty years, we've been putting forth one initiative after the other, and making concession after concession, to embarrass Israel by showing our Arab good will for peace before the international community. The results were consistently disastrous: more Israeli settlements, more carnage and more abuse."

If decades of direct talks have yielded nothing, what can you expect of indirect talks now? * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi @Email:aelbahi@thenational.ae