In his weekly column, veteran journalist Abed al-Rahman Rashad, CEO of the Arab news agency Al-Arabiya, demanded: “Those that are now asking for the help of Arab governments – shouldn’t they be asking themselves who asked the Arab nations for advice before they kidnapped the soldier, or carried out any other operations that would lead to a conflict which has no chance of success, and would incur enormous damages like the ones we see in Gaza?”
The issue of the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit has ignited turmoil in the Arab world, and most writers and commentators agree that the soldier should be released in a trade-off for Palestinian security prisoners.
In the past, Rashad worked as editor of the influential newspaper a-Sharq al-Awsat, and he continues to publish opinion articles in the paper, expressing ideas that aren’t often agreeable to the Arab public.
“Unfortunately, Hamas doesn’t accept any opinion that is not its own opinion. It publicly rejected the united Arab stance and announced it would continue what it called the ‘only method’ (ie., the armed struggle against Israel), despite the fact it knew that most Arab countries supported calm and opposed minor operations that complicate the situation and cause enormous damages, as we see today…”
“No one has the right to ask for help from the Arab governments, as it was not they that advised this method of conduct, and when Hamas turned its back on their decisions and counsel. The ones who have become entangled and have tangled up the Palestinians in this battle carry joint responsibility, and they must prove the logic behind their actions. Did Israel lose, and how? Did the soldier’s capture free even one single prisoner? And, was the result worth all the damage it caused?”
He concluded: “I know that many are asking these questions, but they don’t have the guts to say so publicly, to not make things even more difficult in looking forward to the end of this disaster.”
The fact that the Foreign Ministry decided to publish the article on its internet site in Arabic shows that rarity of the opinion expressed there.
Fight for justice
And what do the others say? In al-Ahram a different opinion altogether is expressed. The editor of Egypt’s most mainstream newspaper, Usama Sariya, wrote: “What Israel needs to understand, after the tunnel operation and the abduction of the Israeli soldier, is that this operation answers all the criteria of a military operation; it has all the moral justifications and isn’t a suicide attack aimed at civilians.”
Most of the opinions expressed in the Arab world regarding the kidnapping provide plenty of explanations in support of future kidnappings.
“While the Palestinians took just one soldier captive, Israel is holding 10,000 Palestinians captive, whom no one is speaking up for,” said Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a speech Friday.
In addition, many claim the Palestinian kidnappers are presenting reasonable requests, and Israel is rejecting them all. Hamas leader Usama al-Mazini expressed a similar opinion Tuesday, in an interview with the al-Jazeera network. Al-Mazini explained that the Palestinian prisoners are ill, some of them are old, others are women and children, and the idea of leaving them in prison is intolerable.
'Israel exploiting situation'
Israel, most say, is not even operating for the release of the soldier but is exploiting the situation to carry out the plan prepared long ago to re-occupy the Gaza Strip and assassinate senior Hamas leaders in the territories and abroad. Israel’s true aim, they say, is to topple the Hamas government and thus overrule the democratic decision of the Palestinian people.
It was frequently claimed in the Arab media that Israel in general and the IDF in particular were international war criminals, as they kidnapped parliament members and ministers in violation of international law, and committed additional international crimes when they targeted infrastructure of helpless Palestinian civilians. In contrast, the Palestinians committed a legitimate act of resistance when they kidnapped a soldier in a tank. “They say he is ‘kidnapped’ but he is a prisoner of war,” Shaaban wrote.
Shaaban further asserted that while the Palestinian people were left alone in its battle against Israel, the United States and the European Union stand behind Israel. And the Arab nations are once again turning their backs to the plight of the Palestinians and failing to intervene.
And the final claim which tops all the rest, is that Israel is using the coverage of the World Cup, which is opiating the masses, to carry out large-scale massacres of the Palestinians uninterrupted.