Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Back to the old blame games 

A few years back, an Arab Human Development Report compiled under the UN auspices by a group of Arab intellectuals and scientists has courageously shone a rare bright light on the bleak condition of the region. Sadly, in its third edition, the Report seems to the return to the old paradigm of blame-shifting and excuse-finding for the Middle East political and economic freedom deficit and lack of progress.

The latest edition of the Report was compiled a few months ago but its publication has been held off by the controversy surrounding its conclusions. The fact that it has been written before the Iraqi elections, the rise of the opposition in Lebanon, or even the municipal elections in Saudi Arabia it itself gives it a dated feeling. But really, the spirit animating the Report means that it might as well have been written anytime over the past few decades:

"The United States, which says it aims to promote democracy in the region, contributed to an international context that hampered progress through its policy toward Israel, its actions in Iraq and security measures affecting Arabs, the report said...

"The most controversial sections described the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and the occupation of Iraq by the United States and its allies as violations of freedom and obstacles to development.

"[One of the Report's authors, Rima] Khalaf said in the launch address that over a 10th of Arabs now lived under foreign occupation."
Yes, one could ask, but what about the other 90 per cent? How long can the experiences of a minority Arabs be used as an excuse for the lack of democracy, human rights deficit, economic underdevelopment, poor educational outcomes and scientific stagnation from the Atlantic coast to the Persian Gulf? And why?

"The report said occupation of Arab land had given governments an excuse to postpone democratization, forced Arab reformers to divert energy away from reform and strengthened groups that advocate violence."
But since there is no logical connection between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and domestic political systems within the Arab countries, why not blame own governments rather than the Jews? And if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is diverting energies away from the struggle for freedom and from economic development, what does it say about the wisdom of human resources allocation within the Arab world?

Sadly, with attitudes like that, freedom still has a long way to go in the Middle East.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?