Syrian crimes and Egyptian misdemeanors
Arabic media review

Syrian crimes and Egyptian misdemeanors

UN monitor chief arrives in Damascus, Egypt tries to calm Saudi anger and Elie Wiesel is condemned for indifference to Palestinian suffering

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Norwegian General Robert Mood stands near a portrait of Bashar Assad in Damascus (photo credit: AP/Bassem Tellawi)
Norwegian General Robert Mood stands near a portrait of Bashar Assad in Damascus (photo credit: AP/Bassem Tellawi)

The arrival of Norwegian Gen. Robert Mood, head of the UN monitoring mission in Syria, stars in the Arab media Monday. Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat leads with Mood’s disclaimer: “Norwegian General: the solution in Syria is not in our hands alone,” reads its headline. The daily criticizes the Moroccan Ahmad Hamish, head of the delegation prior to Mood’s arrival, who was caught on camera telling civilians that the “past is dead,” a statement construed as insensitive by A-Sharq Al-Awsat.

Liberal London-based daily Al-Hayat reports that Mood’s arrival coincides with a statement by the head of the International Red Cross whereby the Annan plan is “in danger,” noting that the killing of Syrian civilians continues unabated despite the presence of monitors on the ground.

Al-Hayat editor Ghassan Cherbel writes that the “Annan mission” has arrived in Syria too late to do any good.

“Kofi Annan came late. We can say he came very late. How much better would it have been if he came a year ago; maybe a ceasefire could be achieved… the demands of his plans are too big for the [Syrian] regime to comply with.”

Saudi-owned news website Elaph reports that Bashar Assad is relying on the ceasefire to eradicate his opposition, noting that the regime is far from falling.

“The ceasefire agreement supported by the UN has not succeeded in stopping the killing in Syria and has also not forced the government to withdraw its forces from residential neighborhoods. Activists fleeing the bullets on the streets dub the agreement a ‘resounding failure,’ as well as officials in the administration of American President Barack Obama … but despite these opinions, no side can offer a reasonable alternative to solving the crisis.”

‘Just not Saudi Arabia’

The tension between Egypt and Saudi Arabia following the arrest of a prominent Egyptian lawyer in Jeddah on charges of drug trafficking continues to make headlines on Monday.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that after the Arab League described the tensions as a “passing cloud” Friday, and after Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador in Cairo, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) has decided to break its silence and try to calm spirits as well.

“Just not Saudi Arabia,” reads the conciliatory headline of the SCAF statement, which argues that the two states have forever enjoyed good relations, and cites obscure “pens for hire” interested in creating bad blood between the two countries. Egypt’s speaker of the parliament, Muhammad Saad Katatni, called his Saudi counterpart and expressed his anguish at the deterioration in the two countries’ relations.

Al-Hayat reports that a chemical test carried out in Jeddah on the substances smuggled in by attorney Ahmad Gizawi verified that they are “internationally banned.”

Meanwhile, Gizawi’s Saudi attorney resigned and is no longer representing him, releasing a statement explaining why to Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya: “I resigned because of the contradicting stories of the defendant,” said the lawyer.

The Arab-nationalist editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Abd Al-Bari Atwan, tries to pour oil on the fire of Egyptian-Saudi relations, portraying the political crisis as a clash between revolutionaries and reactionaries:

“The crisis was not born today, and the arrest of Gizawi is the tip of the iceberg. Relations have been strained between the countries since the Egyptian revolution erupted and Saudi authorities opposed it, trying to abort it and sustain the Mubarak regime in all ways possible,” writes Atwan in an editorial titled “Warning to Saudi Arabia: Egypt is changing.” “Gizawi… may be involved in smuggling illegal pills and he may be innocent, but how can we condemn him or acquit him in the absence of a just legal system in Saudi Arabia and in most Arab countries?”

The other side of the coin is explained by Abd Al-Rahman Rashed, director of Al-Arabiya TV and a columnist for A-Sharq Al-Awsat. In an editorial titled “Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian ‘no,'” he writes that Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy is characterized by refusal, or use of the word “no.”

“The most common word used in the Egyptian scene is the word ‘no.’ Dozens of nos are said every day: no to court martials, no to members of the old regime, no to the Military Council, no to presidential elections before the constitution,” he writes. “It also has nos on foreign matters: no to loans from the International Bank, no to American aid, no to gas export to Israel… and now ‘no to Saudi Arabia’.”

“Naturally, the Egyptian citizen can impose all the nos he wants on his government, but he cannot impose his opinion outside the borders of his country,” writes Rashed in the mouthpiece of the Saudi regime.

Elie Wiesel condemned for double standard

A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Atallah Muhajirani dedicates his editorial Monday to Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel. “Why does Elie Wiesel say nothing about the Palestinians?” asks Muhajirani, citing the numerous conflicts in which Wiesel voiced criticism in past years.

In an impressive expose of Jewish heritage, Muhajirani explains the importance of memory in Jewish tradition, from the Torah to the founder of the Hassidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov.

Then he adds: “I would like to say that Israel destroyed the cultural memory by killing Palestinians, ruining their homes and building new settlements on their land. More importantly, Israel tries to eradicate the Palestinian cultural memory. As a result, Elie Wiesel does not want to mention the Palestinians.”


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