The Shape of the Arab Mind
(A perfect summary of the mindset of the Arab nation...)
World Politics Watch
07 Dec 2006
by Pierre Heumann
An Interview With Al-Jazeera Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Sheikh
Mr. Sheikh, as the Editor in Chief of Al-Jazeera, you are one of the most important opinion-makers in the Arab world. What do you call suicide bombers?
For what is happening in Palestine, we never use the expression "suicide bombing."
What do you call it then?
In English, I would describe it as "bombings."
And in Arabic?
Literally translated, we would speak of "commando attacks." In our culture, it is precisely not suicide.
But instead a praiseworthy act?
When the country is occupied and the people are being killed by the enemy, everyone must take action, even if he sacrifices himself in so doing.
Even if in so doing he kills innocent civilians?
That is not a Palestinian problem, but a problem of the Israelis.
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How do you see the future of this region in which news of wars, dictators and poverty predominates?
The future here looks very bleak.
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. . .
You sound bitter.
Yes, I am.
At whom are you angry?
It's not only the lack of democracy in the region that makes me worried. I don't understand why we don't develop as quickly and dynamically as the rest of the world. We have to face the challenge and say: enough is enough! When a President can stay in power for 25 years, like in Egypt, and he is not in a position to implement reforms, we have a problem. Either the man has to change or he has to be replaced. But the society is not dynamic enough to bring about such a change in a peaceful and constructive fashion.
In many Arab states, the middle class is disappearing. The rich get richer and the poor get still poorer. Look at the schools in Jordan, Egypt or Morocco: You have up to 70 youngsters crammed together in a single classroom. How can a teacher do his job in such circumstances? The public hospitals are also in a hopeless condition. These are just examples. They show how hopeless the situation is for us in the Middle East.
Who is responsible for the situation?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important reasons why these crises and problems continue to simmer. The day when Israel was founded created the basis for our problems. The West should finally come to understand this. Everything would be much calmer if the Palestinians were given their rights.
Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?
I think so.
Can you please explain to me what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to do with these problems?
The Palestinian cause is central for Arab thinking.
In the end, is it a matter of feelings of self-esteem?
Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West's problem is that it does not understand this.
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