Three days ago Adulateef Al-Mulhim, a writer at ArabNews.com and a former Royal Saudi Naval officer, wrote a ground breaking op-ed called the “Arab Spring and the Israel Enemy.” In it he calls for the Arab population and their governments to stop demonizing and blaming Israel as the source of their problems.
“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,” wrote Mulhim.
The importance of Mulhim’s op-ed cannot be understated. In many Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, writing an article that in any way supports or defends Israel can lead to public discrediting and even legal action. This is especially true if it also comes at the expense of the writer’s homeland.
Aside from his comments on Israel Mulhim uses the Arab Spring to point out the superior quality of life among Palestinians. “The Arab Spring showed the world that the Palestinians are happier and in better situation than their Arab brothers who fought to liberate them from the Israelis. Now, it is time to stop the hatred and wars and start to create better living conditions for the future Arab generations.” It’s actually quite surprising that the Saudi government has not yet punished Mulhim for his article (as far as I know). Saudi Arabia is an oppressive oligarchic monarchy with a rich history of punishing dissenters.
One can only hope that Mulhim’s article will begin a trend of changing views in the Arab world towards Israel, though it’s unlikely. Anti-Israel sentiment is so embedded in many of the Arab societies that it would take a monumental effort to extinguish it; perhaps even on the level of the de-Nazification process undergone in Europe following World War II. Egypt, a country that has been turned upside down in the last two years in the name of liberty, freedom, and economic prosperity, still has a museum dedicated to the defeat of the Israelis in 1973. It would appear Egyptians didn’t get the memo that following their successful surprise attack against Israel, they were quickly and embarrassingly defeated.
Now that Mulhim has taken the first step in paving a road to Arab realization that Israel is not, and does not want to be, the Arab enemy, the question arises of “what next?” How does one keep Mulhim’s sentiment and momentum alive? There are the obvious answers which are already underway, including spreading his message via facebook, twitter, and the blogosphere, but will that really make a lasting impact? Probably not. The obvious answer is one that Mulhim does not directly address, but implies in the mere fact that he wrote his op-ed; other Arab intellectuals, journalists, and moderate politicians need to stand up and say what he is saying, regardless of risk (and I am not trying to belittle the risk that comes with taking such a stand). The only way the uneducated (or brainwashed) masses in the Arab world will change their views is if they have leaders demanding it of them.
Towards the beginning of the op-ed Mulhim states, “I decided to write this article after I saw photos and reports about a starving child in Yemen, a burned ancient Aleppo souk in Syria, the under developed Sinai in Egypt, car bombs in Iraq and the destroyed buildings in Libya.” He concludes with “Finally, if many of the Arab states are in such disarray, then what happened to the Arabs’ sworn enemy (Israel)? Israel now has the most advanced research facilities, top universities and advanced infrastructure. Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of the Palestinians living in Israel is far longer than many Arab states and they enjoy far better political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers. Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoy more political and social rights than some places in the Arab World.” Let’s hope that others in the Arab world will have the same realization and understanding as Mulhim, and more importantly the bravery to step forward and say it.
Ahsant (“well done” in Arabic) to Adulateef Al-Mulhim, a true Middle Eastern pioneer and hero.