"Our problem, as new liberals, is that our voice in favor of rationality and real peace isn't heard enough among Israeli intellectuals," wrote Dr. Shaker Al Nabulsi, a Jordanian intellectual of Palestinian origin, who is now living in Colorado. Nabulsi has published his articles in several Arabic newspapers, including the Iraqi paper Al Mada, the Moroccan paper Al Ahdat, and the Kuwaiti paper Al Siyasa.
Al Nabulsi dedicated his most recent article to penetrating criticism of what he describes as the "new covenant" between Hezbollah and Hamas. Following the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hezbollah's Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah spoke of the struggle against Israel common to him and to Hamas.
"Hamas-Allah is the term coined by Al Nabulsi as he warns Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, which support the covenant, of dragging the entire region into a bloody battle in which a new trio will be formed: "Hamas, Hezbollah and Al-Qaida."
Al Nabulsi is not alone. Alongside him one can find Iraqi journalist Daoud al-Basri, who attacks the religious sheikh in Iraq in whose name acts of killing are being carried out; Al-Akhdar al-Afif, a Tunisian Marxist philosopher, who is now writing about the need for reforms in religion and in government systems in Arab countries, and his Moroccan colleague Mohammed Berada, who at one time sharply attacked the Egyptian writers who are opposed to having their works translated into Hebrew, and now, in the pages of the Egyptian press, is attacking those who oppose reform with the same sharpness. This is a new kind of discourse, which takes full advantage of the possibilities offered by the Internet and by satellite television.
All are participants in these outlets for discourse, which are becoming stronger, particularly in the wake of the war in Iraq. Women and men, the religious and the secular, Israelis and Arabs conduct dialogues that bypass the regime and the various taboos. Other participants using the Internet include many Arab journalists, who daily publish translations from the Israeli press. Politicians, university professors, and even Israeli journalists have become familiar to the Arab public, thanks to these translations, and those who read them no longer regard Israeli society as the same monolith portrayed by veteran conservatives or radical organizations.
Israel is still an enemy, Zionism is the mother of all sin and the Zionist-American combination is the catastrophe that has landed on the Arabs and the Muslims. But within this all-embracing viewpoint, there are signs of other deserters who want to reexamine the truths on which generations of Arabs have been raised.
The debate about suicide attacks in Israel was one of the first signs of the existence of other voices. The controversy last week in the Arab newspapers about the attacks being carried out against the U.S. Army, and in particular the horrific attack in which the bodies of the Americans were mutilated in the town of Falluja, is only one aspect of this discourse.
The tremendous difficulty of convening the Arab summit conference, due to substantial differences of opinion regarding questions of reform and democratization, is the other part of this discourse. It points to the fact that the gap between the intellectuals and the rulers in Arab countries is not as great as the West tries to make it seem. It is great only in the eyes of those who measure things by the test of results: whether or not there is democracy, and whether there can be democracy at all in a Muslim country.
This new discourse still has no Israeli ally. Israeli intellectuals, with the exception of those who are directly involved in the field, are not familiar with Arab intellectuals, don't read what they write and perhaps aren't interested in doing so. Literature, even poor literature, about Israel and by Israelis, is popular reading material in Arab countries. Who in Israel will buy new Egyptian novels by young writers? Who is familiar with them at all? Israeli politicians would have difficulty mentioning even the names of the heads of the governments of Jordan and Egypt who are signatories to the peace treaty; they are more expert in terms such as Tanzim, bin Laden or Hassan Nasrallah. For them, these are the authentic Arabs.
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