The Jordan Times (Opinion)
January 15, 2009 - 1:00am

There is a growing clamour for Israel’s grotesque aggression on the Gaza Strip to be properly examined in a war crimes tribunal.

This is an endeavour the Arab world ought to spearhead to mitigate what has been a shameful showing by the countries of this region.

The Arab world needs to take a long, hard look at itself. For all its feebleness when it comes to foreign affairs, one could hardly imagine the European Union, a coalition of countries far more varied than those making up the Arab world, standing by paralysed should one of its own be subjected to the kind of barbarism that Gaza has been subjected to.

After almost three weeks, there has not been a unified Arab position. There has been no collective political initiative that could have turned the screws on Israel long before the unimaginably horrific images from Gaza came out, that have slowly forced the West to act.

In fact, Arab countries are still squabbling whether to convene an emergency summit. After three weeks.

There is of course little new in this. The Arab League is a paper tiger if ever there was one. But that is not the fault of the league, but of its member states. The pompous tussle for diplomatic preeminence and the more covert and unseemly tussle for foreign aid by individual countries, places Arab countries, by their own volition, in a prisoner’s dilemma, where cooperation would yield the greatest gains, but the promise of individual deliverance makes everyone act selfishly, thus yielding the worst outcome for all.

This region could be so much for so many. But is it not tiresome to return, again and again, to potential when, again and again, that potential is betrayed by shortsightedness and narrow interests?

The region, with its natural resources, its proud history and educated human resources, ought to be an economic powerhouse. That way it would also be a political powerhouse.

Instead, countries worry about the Israeli threat, the Iranian threat and all other devices thrown at us for us to squabble over like children over sweets. Meanwhile, the world turns and leaves us behind. So when there is a genuine regional emergency, one that the peoples of this region are united in wanting to confront with real and practical steps under strong and united leadership, governments are in no position to act, because they have not prepared themselves accordingly.

If the Arab League functioned as it should, if its members genuinely understood the potential fruits of their cooperation, Gaza would not have happened.


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