Arabs out of league

TO SAY THE conclusion of the recent Arab League summit in Algiers is bemusing or comical is an understatement. It’s a monumental farce that highlights the self-defeating ineptitude of a toothless organisation and of Arab leadership.

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By  Massoud A. Derhally Published  April 3, 2005

Arabs out of league|~||~||~|TO SAY THE conclusion of the recent Arab League summit in Algiers is bemusing or comical is an understatement. It’s a monumental farce that highlights the self-defeating ineptitude of a toothless organisation and of Arab leadership. The travesty of the last meeting, like others, was that nothing was accomplished — other than, of course, the customary hollow declarations, pledges and promises, which in all certitude will further jade the already perturbed Arab masses. Instead of addressing the salient and seminal issues of the day, leaders chose to dwell on personal rivalries, the past, maintaining their hold on power and ostensibly continuing on the same path of self-serving, defunct policies — the path of incompetence that has characterised the Arab world for the past century. And then you had leaders who thought it appropriate to mock their brethren in a quite unfitting and ludicrous manner — highlighting not only the fractured nature of the organisation, but also the obsession of some with self-glorification. All this leads me to conclude and reaffirm what every Arab will tell you, that the Arab League is nothing but an obsolete and powerless entity that has long outgrown its usefulness. Its presence only serves to reiterate the stagnant state Arabs find themselves in today. It couldn’t get Yasser Arafat out of house arrest for two years. It wasn’t able to stop the war in Iraq from taking place. Worse, it played little or no role in the reconstruction of Iraq or in restoring stability to the war-torn country — irrespective of why the war was waged and by whom. And let’s not forget its inability to create a unified voice on any particular issue outside the realm of politics. The Arab league effectively has become an obstacle rather than a resource to draw on, or even a vehicle that can be used to address the grave issues that face the Arab world. The failure of the organisation to fulfil its intended objectives is underscored by the pervasive lack of reform programmes in a region, which is characterised by poverty, a lack of human rights, gender inequality, religious extremism, arbitrary arrests and many other forms of repression. Arab governments are not much different from the opaque league that represents them. The dismal lack of progress, the refusal to cultivate and nurture fully-fledged democratic societies that allow their people to play a collective role in defining their future speaks volumes. Their continued reluctance and refusal to do so, particularly now, as the Lebanese people rise up in the face of injustice, as Palestinians continue to live under occupation and as religious extremism threatens the currents of moderation in the region, is all too telling. It illuminates much more than the shortcomings of the Arab leadership. It draws attention to how out of touch with their own people they are. There is an Arab spring today. Each country no doubt has its independent characteristics, but it speaks volumes when Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese and others take to the street asking for a pluralistic environment that allows them to define their future and take part in the decision-making process. The predicament Arabs find themselves in today is not a result of foreign forces stirring things up, nor is it a by-product of the repeated defeats Arabs suffered on battlefields or because of a strong Israel. Rather, it is because Arab leaders and the Arab League have failed to grasp the changing dynamics on the ground. Rather than strive for the collective good of their people, they have pursued a self-centred policy aimed at maximising nothing but their hold on power and ensuring the continuation of manufactured nationalism. And now that Lebanon has seen subsequent car bombings, now that Israel’s intransigence continues with the announce-ment of a further expansion of 3500 settlements in the West Bank, what does the Arab League have to offer? Nothing. So long as the current situation continues, so long as leaders turn a blind eye to the real problems that face the region, and so long as they avoid working with each other in a transparent manner, the region’s economic, social and political development will continue to suffer and the impotence that has permeated the region for so long will only increase. It is perhaps best the Arab League no longer meets. Silence speaks louder than words. Massoud A Derhally is Business & Diplomatic Editor of Arabian Business. ||**||

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