The Arab media look back on 2013 with almost unremitting gloomTHE brash little city-state of Dubai jovially claims to have won a Guinness record for the world’s biggest-ever fireworks display, but other Arab capitals greeted the new year with gloom rather than glee. From Cairo to Beirut and Damascus to Baghdad, the historic hubs of Arab civilisation, commentary on the past year was uniformly bleak—and the prognosis for the coming one laden with doom, too.
In a provocative editorial, Ghassan Charbel, editor of Al-Hayat, a London-based Arabic daily, spelt out unvarnished truths he ascribed to an unnamed senior politician. We should drop all pretence, suggested Mr Charbel’s anonymous interlocutor. We should admit that the Arab spring’s toppling of dictators has simply split our flimsy nations into clashing sects and tribes. We should admit that the struggle for Palestine has faded from our thoughts, that our own squabbling has granted Israel its greatest victory yet without the loss of a single soldier, and that the central struggle for us now is the one between Sunnis and Shias. After all this blood and slaughter, from Iraq to Syria and beyond, we should admit that we Arabs no longer want to live together.
Walid al-Bunni, a veteran Syrian human-rights activist, penned an equally despairing summary for the news website All4Syria. “Must we wait until complete exhaustion in a hideous sectarian war so that the survivors can at last conclude that this is a war no one can win, and that fanaticism on both sides brings nothing but death, backwardness and misery, and only then realise that the only kind of shared victory is one that comes through living together and openness and democracy?”
An Egyptian columnist, Bilal Fadl, writing in a Cairo daily, Al-Shorouk, addressed an open letter to a friend, an activist from Egypt’s 2011 revolution, now languishing in prison: “I write to you on the last day of this dismal year, when the dreams of Egyptians for a civil state that would bring freedom, dignity and social justice turned into nightmares. We now live in the shadow of a regime that is martial in its head, repressive in its arms, civilian in its skin, granting freedom only to those who applaud it.”
Karl Sharro, a Lebanese-Iraqi architect living in London whose whimsical satires have a wide internet following, tried a lighter approach, paraphrasing Woody Allen. “I wish I had some kind of positive message to end the year with,” he wrote on Twitter. “I don’t. Would you take two negative ones?”
Comment: Imagine a culture that laments not one IDF soldier had been killed-yet, you persist in your beliefs that peace can be made! The cultural framework is non-existent, not in place, missing-you select the words-until such time as the leadership acts in behavior consistent with peace, there is no possibility (PIP) for peace. The entire culture must demonstrate its committment to peace before we are able to sign any document.