Khairallah Khairallah
The National
June 21, 2010 - 12:00am

The Arab world continues its search for the ideal hero. Within our culture there is a steadfast determination to find the perfect representative – and a strict adherence to the image of a saviour on a white horse.

In the popular imagination, it is an image of a hero who will come and, with the help of the Almighty, rescue Arabs from the dire straits in which they find themselves. Tens of millions go to sleep every night, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf, dreaming about his arrival.

Apparently nobody wants to ask the question of why the Arabs find themselves in this undesirable situation: they are content to escape into a fantasy world and dream of a mythical hero as a way of addressing their problems. Instead, it should be recognised that there is a very real need for responsible leaders who can deal with harsh realities and find solutions by addressing problems in a practical manner, rather than resorting to escapism.

The problem is masked by a number of facades, but the main hindrance to the search for a solution is the lack of desire, or perhaps the lack of courage, to call a spade a spade. There is no single person willing to stand up and directly address the key issues.

One example of this, although it is by no means the only one, is that no one wants to ask why Arabs have no involvement with the technological revolution that is storming the world, just as they played no active role in the previous Industrial Revolution.

Why do they have nothing to do with modern educational programmes? Why don’t senior officials dare to speak up about the dangers of skewed population growth, especially in the poorer Arabic countries? Why is it that only a small number of Arab leaders dare to address the situation relating to the position of women, who form half of Arabic society?

Luckily or not, the Arabs just found a hero. The deterioration in relations between Turkey and Israel, especially after the killing of nine Turkish citizens travelling to besieged Gaza on the “Freedom Flotilla”, has inadvertently given rise to a new saviour.

Under the pretext of having a prisoner in the territory and of denying Iran a port on the Mediterranean Sea, Israel resisted Turkish demands to lift the siege. What then? Did the people of Gaza sleep any better following the Turkish attempt to end the siege?

In truth, every time Arabs find a hero, disaster hits them. Ever since the the Nakba in 1948, a series of coups has accompanied the deterioration of the Arab condition, starting with Syria. This deterioration peaked after 1956, when Gamal Abdel Nasser rose to prominence, with assistance from the United States. At that time, Arabs thought they had found a new hero; a hero who carried them through the disaster that was the 1967 war, and through other disasters of no lesser importance.

Another disaster was the military coup in Iraq on July 14 1958, a bloody attack on the Hashemite dynasty that was ruling Iraq at the time. It represented the first step on the road that has led to the tearing apart of Iraqi society, and made it what it is today.

There is no need to name all the “heroes” who Arabs have resorted to. For a long time they were enthusiastic about Saddam Hussein, even after he had committed the crime of invading Kuwait.

The Arabs gave their praise to the heroes of the Palestinian revolution, even though they, along with Lebanese and non-Lebanese revolutionaries, took part in the most heinous crimes in Lebanon and fed the sectarian conflict.

Hizbollah won praise, before it was realised that they were nothing more than an armed militia that could carry Lebanon and the rest of the region to the brink of disaster at any moment.

Arabs have praised these “heroes” while ignoring the fact that there are many real problems that need addressing elsewhere. The only achievement that they can point to over the last 60 years is the containment of Israel, which has been kept in comparative isolation. Israel has been unable to penetrate any Arab state or infiltrate any Arab society, unlike other regional powers.

Since the revolution, Iran has always been there, largely successful in hijacking the Palestinian cause. It has played on internal divisions and had a hand in the estrangement between the West Bank and Gaza.

For Turkey, the issue should not be Gaza and its siege, but how Ankara is being ruled by an Islamist movement which currently supports Hamas in Gaza, and how they fear that everyone will fall under the sway of Iran.

Instead of this kind of support, Palestinians need political support that is based on the two-state option. Everything else is a waste of time, and serves only as a distraction; everything else is merely playing along with the longstanding game of searching for a hero.

This game is essentially just a way of exploiting the insecurities suffered by Arabs. It is a game that the Arabs and the Palestinians have paid for dearly, with their blood and with the loss of their territory.


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