Incredible as it may seem at this critical juncture, could I have detected a tiny glimmer of hope amid the chaos and lunacy of the carnage-strewn Middle East?
Not that Shiite and Sunni, Palestinian and Israeli, Arab and Jew are all suddenly going to embrace each other warmly, cooing ‘Salaam’ and ‘Shalom’. On the contrary: tragically, there’s no denying much more blood will be spilt before the pipe dream of peace comes true, if ever fully.
No, the script will continue apace, after disparate anti-Assad fighters forged an iffy alliance in Doha early this month, the fragmented opposition agreeing to combine under the Soviet-sounding nom de guerre of The National Coalition Forces of the Syrian Revolution. With Al Qaeda extremist and raving Salafists in its ranks, skeptics aren’t betting it’ll enjoy a long life.
In the meantime – having already overflowed into Turkey and Jordan, where thousands of Syrian refugees have fled their odious regime’s killing machine – the conflict is engulfing Lebanon, where Iranian-backed proxies of the terrorist franchise, Hizbollah, hold the country by its throat.
Israel has done its best to stay above the fray, despite Syrian army tank rounds, mortar shells and stray bullets landing in its territory. But now they, too, have been shanghaied into taking defensive action on their southern flank.
With nearly 800 rocket attacks targeted at its civilians so far this year up to the beginning of November from Hamas’s terror enclave in Gaza – missiles smuggled in from Libya, Iran and Sudan and seriously lethal ordnance – it’s small wonder Israel felt compelled to take out the terror-monger-in-chief, Ahmed Jaabari, on Wednesday.
But what did Hamas expect by deliberately provoking an Israeli defensive retaliation with a rocket blitz?
As usual, they escalated the violence for PR gain, but the real reason is they want to test the new-found power of their sponsors and armourers, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, who swept to control after Egypt’s overthrow of the Mubarak mob.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the Palestine Authority’s inept boss and arch foe of Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas, is ignoring all sage advice by preparing a second bid for fig-leaf statehood at the UN, knowing it will kybosh any hopes of reigniting talks with Jerusalem.
Chuck into the mix maniacal Iran’s obsession with developing a nuclear weapon that will guarantee them bully-boy status over the Middle East if only they can only annihilate Israel – in your dreams, Ahmadinejad – and the perfect storm continues to foment.
So the status quo is worsened and – unlike their creative, medieval predecessors – today’s Arabs can appear guilty of seeming unable to organise a fondu party in a funfair, so factionalised and fractious are they over ancient tribal and religious enmities among themselves.
Hence, with an Arab Spring now turned Islamic Winter, where’s this glimmer of hope I mentioned? So, consider the following carefully:-
‘The Arab world wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of innocent lives fighting Israel, which they considered is their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they never recognized.
‘The Arab world has many enemies and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list.
‘The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people.
‘These dictators’ atrocities against their own people are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars.’
These aren’t my words, though I fully endorse the sentiments. No, they emanate from Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, who goes on to state tellingly, ‘If many of the Arab states are in such disarray, we should contrast them with Israel.
‘It now has the most advanced research facilities, top universities and infrastructure. Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of Palestinians living in Israel is far greater than in many Arab states and they enjoy far greater political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers.
‘Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank enjoy more political and social rights than in some parts of the Arab world.’
So who is this Abdulateef Al-Mulhim and is his a siren voice of reason in the Arab wilderness, where hatred is common currency and unyielding Islamo-fascists are increasingly calling the shots?
Strangely, he is a retired commodore of the Saudi navy, now a columnist in Arab News, the oil-rich desert kingdom’s first English-language newspaper.
Given the implacably Sunni Muslim House of Saud isn’t a renowned advocate of a free Press or human rights, it is bizarre Al-Mulhim was permitted to express such heretical opinions. So they must have passed muster with a censor high up the Saudi bling chain.
Al-Mulhim’s comments – and their obvious official sanction – represent a glimmer of blue-sky thinking by the ultra-conservative Saudi establishment. And it’s a sign, too, they are getting a tad hotter under their kaffiyehs about what’s long been brewing on the Iranian Shiite side of the Persian Gulf.
As small acorns become imposing oaks, many Middle East watchers are intrigued by what they perceive may be an ever-so-slight thaw between the Saudis and the Israelis, since Al-Mulhim has called into doubt the one, abiding distraction uniting Arabs: eradicating Israel.
The three wars they instigated against the Jewish state – in 1948, 1967 and 1973 – all resulted in ignominious loss, along with large tranches of territory that Israel negotiated back to Egypt and Jordan in exchange for ‘cold’ peace deals.
Abbas, however, hasn’t shown he’s serious about such accommodations, much to the satisfaction of his glee club of purblind, Left-liberal luvvies, whose credo is echoed daily by the anti-Zionist cheerleaders at The Guardian, BBC and New York Times.
The luvvies, of course, will continue to pretend that Israel is still the nub of all Middle East woes and 250 million Arabs will make love, not war when those five million stubborn Jews disappear in a second Holocaust and the Palestinians reclaim a ‘homeland’ that was never their birthright in the first place.
Al-Mulhim has shot that proposition down in flames, as if to say ‘It’s not Israel, stupid’; that’s just been a convenient sideshow, camouflaging the real problem of tyrants suppressing their people.
While I’m not naive enough to imagine such ideological foes as Saudi Arabia and Israel can kiss and make up, a chink of light has broken through the gloom, even if it is largely based on the premise that my enemy’s enemy is my friend.
It might never guarantee total peace, but if back-channel diplomacy can unite Saudi influence with Israeli can-do, it could put the brakes on an unfolding calamity exploding into an apocalypse.