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So Our Region Is Not Converted into a Cemetery for Forces of a Peace That Has Gone Astray, and for Peace to Have a Real Future

Three speeches -- Dr Maher Cherif, Palestinian researcher living in Syria; Dr Mahdi el Hafez (Iraq), Dr Awatef Abd El Rahman (Egypt) -- have identified the restrictions on the development of a true project for a 'peace' that is just and equitable in the region, and what is at stake today for Arab societies in this millennium. Among the numerous restrictions, factors relative to Israeli politics and society, factors that are intrinsic to Arab societies in general and the positions adopted by the major international powers.

At the Israeli level

- The politics of 'fait accompli' adopted by the Israeli Government (of both Barak and Sharon), which turns its back to all the United Nations resolutions (194, 242, 338).
- The prevailing racism among members of the Israeli society against the Arabs living among them.
- The ongoing provocation of the Palestinians by the Israeli authorities
(extension of the colonies, Sharon's visit to the Promenade in Jerusalem, the refusal to withdraw Israeli forces from the occupied territories, etc.)
- The lack of maturity in Israeli society, which constitutes a shackle on the construction of a true opinion supporting a fair peace process.

At the Arab level

- The division among the Arab states and their permanent preoccupation with holding their own has fragmented the social dynamics and isolated the people. All efforts, therefore, to build efficient solidarity networks and democratic societies have come to nothing.
- The authoritarian regimes have, at the same time, marginalized the intellectuals and diminished their role in society by depriving them of freedom of expression and of action. This attitude has meant, on the one hand, the prosecution of all forms of opposition to the powers that be and a brain drain to foreign countries. The authoritarian regimes are equally impoverished by the corrupting and bureaucratic potential of their societies,the poor allocation of budgets (emphasizing defense expenditure over and above education, scientific research and development) and the marginalization and devaluation of the role of women.

At the international level

- The problems of debt for the economies of the Arab countries
- The lack of a political will among the major international powers to find a solution to the conflict that is tearing Palestine apart.
- The maintenance of an embargo against Iraq and the adoption of an attitude that constitutes a double standard with regard to human-rights and justice issues.
- The impact of globalization and the marginalization of the third world, including the Arab world.
- The favorable attitude of the European Union and the blindness of other Western countries vis-à-vis Israel despite its colonial policies (concession of significatn funding and aid).
- The role of the media in the handling of information concerning the Arab countries, in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the situation in Iraq.

The challenges posed today

Going beyond a legitimate resistance to oppression and injustice, the Arab societies need to establish a common front with a civilizational project shared and built on the historical knowledge of Arab culture This cannot be done without:
- An opening up to the outside world and an objective and constructive self-criticism.
- The introduction of reforms for a more significant and overall democratization of society.
- The development of a capacity to look to the future and the acquisition of the necessary technological tools.
- A reduction in military spending
- The development of a coherent economic program inspired by experience and offering perspectives for the development of the younger populations.
- A better utilization of communications and media, on the one hand to present a true image to the outside of the Arab world and, on the other hand, to build a collective awareness and an Arab opinion in relation to the great debates taking place in different societies and the challenges posed for this millennium.

- From Saida, South Lebanon, 22 June 2001 - Continental Meeting of the Arab

by Nadia Leïla Aïssaoui <>


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