The Arab League Summit has concluded on a note the Arab street has, unfortunately, grown accustomed to: hollow rhetoric of condemnations, recycled resolutions chief of which is an independent Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital, and the senselessly obdurate demand that Israel makes land concessions, namely, the territories it occupied after 1967.
The Arab League, since its inception in 1945, has achieved a few minor successes such as containing the Lebanese civil war of 1958, advancing cultural exchange programs between member states, and improving the status of women in some Arab countries. It has remained largely impotent in addressing serious political, social and economic issues presently hindering the progress of Arab nations. The two biggest conflicts in the Middle East today – the Israeli-Palestinian issue and Iraq – highlight the limitations of the Arab League to affect decisions in Arab issues. In 2004, when Yasser Arafat was sequestered by Israel with the backing of the U.S. as the League was convening, the member states’ response was silence. When Saddam Hussein, a member of the Arab League, was detained by U.S. forces in December of 2003, the Arab League responded by silence. The conflict between Morocco and Algeria’s proxy, Polisario, has proven to be outside of its league. The dire situation of Darfur was not worthy of mention. Lebanon’s presidential quagmire has gone unaddressed mostly because the instigator happens to be the host of the League Summit this year. Even Qatar’s territorial dispute with Iran and Bahrain is quite challenging for the Arab League. Advancing democracy, challenging human rights violations orchestrated by its member governments, the freedom of press, the alarming prevalence of Islamic radicalism, terrorism, and similar concerns were never pressing issues in the Arab’s consortium.
The only attempt at establishing a unified economic front started in 1982 – much earlier than the European Union – through the Gulf Cooperation Council. It has been an utter failure; no unified monetary system, no trade tax agreements, no common market, no common labor laws, diverging political agendas; if you travel to Arab countries, you’ll realize that we do not share a common culture, nor do we enjoy a common language. We have been made to think that we have a common history; We don’t. What the majority of “Arabs” have in common is a basic understanding of Islam. Even Islam has been used as a political tool creating discordance among different peoples.
Amr Moussa, the Secretery General, announced that the league has adopted a Yemani initiative that will end all disputes between Fatah and Hamas. Don’t hold your breath. He was right when he lamented the lack of trust between the League’s members. They are all political and economic backstabbers with drastically divisive loyalties.
What good is an Arab League whose members – the kings and the presidents – are unrepresentative of their people, advance agendas of international superpowers such as the U.S. and Russia, lack political and economic bargaining chips to be considered seriously in the international arena, and lack – worse, never, since Gamal Abdelnasser, had the political or economic initiative?
If you don’t have the initiative, you have nothing. What you have is semantic folderol. A parsing of words.
The only concern the Dictators’ League seems to have is deluding the Arabs about its illusionary relevance.
Ahmed T. B. Copyright © 2008