The Lowest Common Denominator

“Don’t ask me what to do,” the League’s secretary general, Amr Moussa, told reporters after the meeting.

CAIRO: The spiraling Middle East crisis has exposed deep divisions within the Arab world and forced its leaders into a frank admission of helplessness. After an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Saturday, the 22-member bloc admitted it was impotent in the face of Israel’s deadly attacks on the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
“Don’t ask me what to do,” the League’s secretary general, Amr Moussa, told reporters after the meeting.

Analysts said the huge rift between Western allies such as Egypt and Jordan and radical states like Syria had proved impossible for diplomats to bridge.

“The main structure of the Arab League is the idea of consensus, so meetings always come up with the lowest common denominator,” said Nadim Shehadi, a Middle East specialist with the London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Saturday’s meeting “was a bit more revealing,” he said. “There are real divisions at this time especially to do with relations with Iran on the one hand and with the United States and Israel on the other.”

Western allies, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have all tempered condemnation of the scale of the Israeli reprisals with criticism of the “adventurism” of Hizbullah in seizing two Israeli soldiers last Wednesday.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned on Friday of the risk of “the region being dragged into adventurism that does not serve Arab interests.” Saudi official media have also used similar language.

But for states like Yemen, the crisis should force countries like Egypt and Jordan to cut all ties with the Jewish state.

“We must take swift steps with sincere intentions to solve the Arab-Arab differences which create an obstacle to reaching a unified Arab position,” Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi said, calling on all Arab states to “end any cooperation with Israel.” At the post-meeting news conference, Moussa pronounced the Middle East process “dead” and called on the UN Security Council to take back responsibility from the so-called quartet of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States. [Daily Star]

I’ve heard this many times before. What always made me wonder was the “what then?” question. If Jordan cuts diplomatic ties with Israel to appease the lowest common denominator, what then? Will it make a difference? It doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference with any of the Arab countries who don’t have those ties. It doesn’t seem to have made any difference that those same countries have the economic powers that can actually put the breaks on the Israeli offensive. It doesn’t seem to have made much difference with nations like Syria or Iran who have constantly threatened Israel with “action” and/or “reaction”.

All across the board the reaction has been inaction. And that’s as expected as a US veto in the UN. So no need to get pissed. The surprise these days would be the unexpected reaction.

It’s funny in a sad way really, because most Arabs complain about the lack of action from the Arab League, and that it’s just talk. But even when they get together to talk they’re still sorting out “a position”.

There’s that old saying that they get together at these meetings to agree to disagree. Well at least this time they agreed on one thing: “impotent” is the right word to describe the organization.

You can thank Amr Moussa and the Arab Foreign Ministers for saying what everyone’s been thinking for years by clicking here.


  • Allright, good for them and us! I am not too kean to saying thank you though! I am more interested in what’s next? Amr Moussa says it’s going to the UN security council for a complete overhaul – to discuss it from scratch…. but he also says if the UN security council fails, nobody knows what might happen next! Why? Shouldn’t they know what will happen next?

    Unless real actions are made, this remains to be just another ‘get together!’ (at leat to me!)

  • Excuse my french, but why the fuck should we thank him?!

    😀 excused!

    I guess you know know.. lol! I have my doubts though!

  • Shaden, I guess it’s just that Hamzeh’s>/b> got skills :d … he’s managed to even convince ME…

    I nominate him for the Leagueâ??s Secretary General

  • The Daily Star is a Lebanese publication. It’s easy to undersatnd why they would choose at moments when their country is only one other than Palestine being subjected to Israel’s military aggression while the Arab world militarily is silent. Of course, the Arab world is military mute, not only silent.

    However, the rest of the Arab world, doesn’t need to maintain the negative tone towards meetings of the Arab League, especially at this moment of golden opportunity. Basically the result of the Arab League meeting was that Arabs have been betrayed by their “friends” like the US. The US simply came in and bought Israel time to do whatever it wants on the ground.

    When Arab leaders say that, when they declare to the entire world that they are seriously doubting the sincerity of this “friendship” that the US has made with them, what should Arabs do? I’ll tell you what Arabs should do. They should jump in and make sure their leaders stand strong for what they said. If the Arabs don’t manage to gather up all the positive spirit they can gather at this time, it will be too easy for the United States to come in and tear the Arab leaders apart again.

    Basically, this time, the Arab people have the responsibility to boost the morale of their leaders, more than it is the other way around.

    So yeah, everybody should thank them, even if they aren’t anywhere near happy with their overall performance in the past. It’s about the future and how we can maintain our momentum going foward away from the failed peace process, so that we don’t get suck into it again.

  • shaden, lol… I don’t know why… so why?

    hamzeh, I believe we should concerntrate on what’s next … I am more interested in what they will do next? what real measures they will take to ensure that they no longer fall puppets to israel and the US. what they will do to actually take a strong stance and be united as Arabs! Really, thank you for your effort, I believe we can use that site as one channel that will give us – Arabs everywhere – the opportunity to tell our leaders our expectations and what actions we demand from them!


  • (the ‘thank him’ part was me being sarcastic)

    Hamzeh, what Khalaf said is probably the closest to what I’ve been thinking for the longest time now.

  • Nas, I think a lot of people in the Arab world have had all of this in the back of their mind for the longest time as well, it’s just that nobody was saying it publicly, or maybe I should say more people are willing to say it today than however many were willing to say it before.

  • Hamzeh, I have no problem with that type of solution but i dont think a lot of people in the Arab world have in fact had this sort of thing in the back of their mind. What people want is something extreme and that is something that has not helped nor worked in the past and only results in death and destruction for our side. People are not willing to look at the politics in the works and assess the best solution. Jordan cutting off diplomatic ties just for the heck of it is not going to work, whereas a scenario such as that which Khalaf proposed is a more likely and effecient response.

    but we wont be seeing that any time soon (if ever)

  • Charles Krauthammer wrote in Time magazine:

    “What is so remarkable about the current wave of violence in Gaza is that the event at the origin of the “cycle” is not at all historical, but very contemporary. The event is not buried in the mists of history. It occurred less than one year ago. Before the eyes of the whole world, Israel left Gaza. Every Jew, every soldier, every military installation, every remnant of Israeli occupation was uprooted and taken away.

    How do the Palestinians respond? What have they done with Gaza, the first Palestinian territory in history to be independent, something neither the Ottomans nor the British nor the Egyptians nor the Jordanians, all of whom ruled Palestinians before the Israelis, ever permitted? On the very day of Israel’s final pullout, the Palestinians began firing rockets out of Gaza into Israeli towns on the other side of the border. And remember: those are attacks not on settlers but on civilians in Israel proper, the pre-1967 Israel that the international community recognizes as legitimately part of sovereign Israel, a member state of the U.N. A thousand rockets have fallen since.

    For what possible reason? Before the withdrawal, attacks across the border could have been rationalized with the usual Palestinian mantra of occupation, settlements and so on. But what can one say after the withdrawal?”

    This is a time for tragedy for Israel, Gaza and Lebanon and I realize the situation is more complex than this quote implies … but I am curious as to what you feel the response should have been from Israel given the kidnapping and rocket attacks by Hamas ?

  • “Before the withdrawal, attacks across the border could have been rationalized with the usual Palestinian mantra of occupation, settlements and so on. But what can one say after the withdrawal?â?

    Exactly, “occupation, settlements and so on“. Why didn’t he continue to say what else Israel did to the Palestinians? What about the thousands of people Israel kidnapped from Gaza and threw in Israeli jails? What about the women and children in Israeli jails. There are Palestinians who were born in jail. Where in the world does a woman give birth in prison and remains with her child in prison other than Israel?

    What about the 100 or so thousand refugees in Rafah? When is Israel going to give them back their land? What about the thousands of shells Israel fired into Gaza itself? What about compensation? How is Israel going to compensate the Palestinians for the years of occupation and suppressed development it has subjected them to and continue to subject them to till this day?

    Whata about Gaza’s borders? What about its air space? What about its water resources that Israel can cut at any time it wishes to?

    All of this was part of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

    In what world does withdrawal of troops and continuing of siege amount to liberation?

    And the writer’s point about what neither the Ottomans, the British nor the Arabs ever allowed the Palestinians and Israel allegedly allowed is laughable. The Ottomans had a very loose rule over parts that were away from Turkey, like the Jordan, Palestine and the rest of the Arab penunsela. The Ottomans didn’t ethnically cleanse 900’000 Arabs from the land of Palestine and replaced them with Turks. The British facilitated the ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Palestine and gave the immigrant jews land that wasn’t even theirs [the British] to begin with. The Arabs outside of Palestine and the same as Arabs inside Palestine. It doesn’t matter to them whether it’s a separate Palestinian state or part of a bigger Arab state. In the first two thirds of last century there was a big Arab national movement that refused to reocgnize the Arab countries’ borders which the Arabs themselves didn’t draw. It’s not historically accurate to say that the Arabs didn’t allow Arabs in Palestine to have their own state.

  • Hamzeh N., I agree with you that the situation is a lot deeper than the author implied but I feel he does have a point. I am really saddened by the civilian casualties on all sides. I hope that Israel stops the attacks because the civilian death toll in Lebanon is sickening. I just don’t understand the support for Hezbollah by the Lebanese population and the Arab word… they kidnap two Israeli soldiers and fire rockets (into residential areas hoping to kill civilians) from or near residential areas…. of course Israel is going to punish them and in turn kill civilians… Why is support for them so strong? Do you not feel they are responsible in any way for the civilian loss in Lebanon? I am very frustrated and saddened by our polarized world population who seems to understand only one side.

    I terms of history…I do not agree with your account. Especially: “…and gave the immigrant Jews land…” Jews have a relationship with Israel that goes back thousands of years and many of those “immigrant Jews” were fleeing persecution from nearby Arab lands.

  • “they kidnap two Israeli soldiers and fire rockets (into residential areas hoping to kill civilians) from or near residential areasâ?¦. of course Israel is going to punish them and in turn kill civilians”

    But that’s not the order of how things happened. Israel fired at civilians first. Hizballah only started firing its rockets at Israeli cities, if I’m not mistaken, two days after.

    As for why Hizballah has so much support. First, in order to reduce the amount of bewilderment in people’s mind as to why so much support, remember that Hizballah is Lebanese. A lot of people here think Hizballah is some kind of foreign entity; it’s not. Second, because Hizballah is more than just a militia. It’s probably the biggest political party in Lebanon. They have their own TV station and they have social and political programs in addition to their resistance program. Third, because Hizballah gave the Lebanese back the south from Israel. They are perceived as heroes in Lebanon because today, other Arab terretories are occupied while Lebanon’s terretories are not. They are also admired because they more advanced capabilities than the ordinary Arab resistance groups like Hamas, which also enables them to fight against Israeli soldiers more than they target civilians.

    As for history. Thousands of years. If people are willing to refuse the stories of Palestinian refugees who are still alive today and who were there when they were forced out of their homes and houses in Palestine, why should we accept the stories of jewish immigrants who are claiming their right to this land based on ancestry that is impossible to trace. How do I know that jewish settler X today has anything to do with jewish person Y who lived more than 2 thousand years ago?

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