With great sadness, it can be said that in the absence of a sane civil alternative, the Arab world will continue along this path.
Salman Masalha || The decay in the Arab world
Bashar Assad, who is continuing to massacre Syrian civilians, is not only the president of an important country in that region called "the Arab world," but above all, he is the most prominent symbol of the rot in that Arab world. It should be recalled that the incumbent President Assad received the post of Syrian president on a silver platter drenched in the bloodletting committed by his father, President Hafez Assad.
Assad Senior's junta, which took power in a military coup, drew the blood of thousands of Syrians as well as Lebanese and Palestinians living in Lebanon. And behold that knight in shining armor, this ophthalmologist and young heir, instead of bringing relief and enlightenment to his people, has for many months been sending his army and gangs of shabiha thugs to sow destruction and death. In every direction, he has been drawing more and more of the Syrian people's blood.
This Western-educated president has spurned whatever he witnessed or learned or experienced in the West. He has returned to his tribal roots to perpetuate the bloody legacy of his forefathers. And the Arab world has been looking at this spectacle and hasn't lifted a finger to stop the killing of Arabs. It is waiting for salvation to arrive from the West, which is nothing new. The Arab world has always been like that, inasmuch as the entire Arab world is a stinking corpse.
Just over a week ago on this page, Gideon Levy lamented Israel's apathy in the face of the horrors taking place on the other side of the border ("The monster next door," Feb. 26 ). "The minimum should be a resounding call to our absolute ally, the United States, and to Israel's other friends - do something, right now," Levy implored in his column. "Forget for a moment the Iranian threat and the Israeli occupation. Join in a rescue of which none is more important."
There is something even more serious than Israel's silence, and it's actually those who are not holding their tongues. There are those in our midst, our own Arab flesh and blood, who have long had no conscience. They sit there serenely in the Knesset, both those holding respected government positions and those on the upholstered opposition benches, and decry the injustices of Israeli governance, rightly of course, in every possible forum. Nonetheless they have no shame in holding forth or rushing to appear on Syrian television in service of the interests of the butcher of Damascus.
Those poor souls, irrespective of their political affiliations, have lost any moral right to speak about freedom and human rights as a result of their actions. No one will buy their line anymore, not their hypocrisy and not the bill of goods emanating from their mouths. This Assad, who has become the darling of Arab public figures and Knesset members, is the most prominent testimony there is to the resounding failure of Arab nationalism.
The pretentious Ba'ath Party slogan "one Arab nation with an eternal mission" is crumbling within sight of everyone. In fact with such a deadly mission, there is no need for external foes. The Arab world is worn out, faltering and above all exploited and confused. The regimes that were called "national" never learned how to build a single nation-state worthy of its name, and maybe never intended to.
The greatest treason against the Arab peoples is the treason of the intellectuals, who never summoned the courage to propose another way. They always worked in the service of the repressive and corrupt regimes, and consigned opposition to corrupt and rotten regimes to the Islamists. That is the deep-seated explanation for the recent rise in these countries of what has been dubbed the Arab Spring.
As long as the younger generation of Arabs doesn't manage to establish and propose a different, sane civil alternative, the choice will remain between fraudulent murderous Arab nationalism, such as the Syrian Ba'ath movement headed by Assad, and Islamic forces who take the name of Allah in vain, people with malignant ideologies and beyond cure. With great sadness, it can be said that in the absence of a sane civil alternative, the Arab world will continue along this path.
Published: Opinions-Haaretz, 6 March 2012
For Hebrew, press here