In this selection, Arab writers on the Middle East opine on the Israeli perspective of why it is escalating the war in Syria and following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, a review of the legacy of English colonialism on Egypt.
ISRAEL HAS NO ALTERNATIVE TO ESCALATION
By Kheir Allah Kheir Allah
Al Rai, Kuwait, September 9
Israel recently conducted two airstrikes against the Aleppo airport within a single week. Air traffic was disrupted for two or three days because of the first strike and more damage was caused to the airport runway the second time. It is still unknown when the airport will resume its normal operation in light of these attacks. Israel’s actions reveal an atmosphere of tension in the region, especially considering Tel Aviv’s insistence on preventing the flow of Iranian weapons into Syria and, from there, into Lebanon.
While we don’t know how things will evolve, it is clear that the government of Yair Lapid, which is on the brink of a general election that will determine its fate in less than two months, is willing to go far to prevent Iran from establishing its foothold on Israel’s borders. Lebanon and southern Syria have joined other regions like the Gaza Strip, Iraq, and Yemen, in the long list of places where Iranian missiles can reach deep into Israeli territory. There is nothing funny about the Israeli insistence on launching strikes inside Syria. The only funny thing about the matter is the Syrian regime’s response to the two recent Aleppo raids, which it considered “war crimes”. Prior to the raids, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad claimed that “Israel is playing with fire and pushing the region into a war.” In an interview with Russian TV, Mekdad was asked about his country’s lax response to Israeli raids on Syrian territory. The minister responded by warning Israel that Syria maintains the right to respond “whenever it wants using whatever means it has” and that “Syria’s patience must not be tested.” Mekdad didn’t clarify the meaning of the phrase “whatever means” and what he meant by it. Given recent geopolitical developments, including the potential of signing a new nuclear agreement with Iran, Israel has no choice but to escalate the situation. The Israeli escalation comes at a time when the entire region is dealing with the repercussions of four simultaneous crises. The first is the crisis of the Syrian regime itself. The second is the crisis of the American inability to play a constructive and clear role in the Middle East and the Gulf. The third is the energy crisis, which has become a global problem following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The fourth is the crisis of the Iranian regime. At the basis of the Iranian regime’s crisis is an expansionist project based on spreading sectarian militias in the region so that the Islamic Republic emerges as the dominant regional power. Israel’s strikes in Syria take place where the four crises converge. What will Israel do as it finds itself increasingly encircled by Iran and its proxies with each passing day? The answer is very simple: It has no choice but to escalate. The option of escalation has become clear and has even received a degree of American blessing. Even if the Biden Administration signs a new deal with the Islamic Republic, the White House will not play a role in restraining Israel and preventing it from escalation. Interestingly, the Israeli strikes on Syrian territory come in the wake of a Turkish-Israeli rapprochement, which was most recently expressed by the visit of a Turkish military frigate to Haifa Port. This is something that happened for the first time since 2010. Is it a coincidence that this rapprochement comes at this particular time and in light of Israel’s expansion of its military operations in Aleppo, located not far from Turkey?
Only time will tell.
-Kheir Allah Kheir Allah
THE DEATH OF THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND
By Osama Al-Ghazali Harb
Al-Ahram, Egypt, September 10
At the age of nearly 96, the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II died last week. She ruled for more than seven decades, marking the longest period of a living head of state in the world.
I will refrain from using this column to summarize the reactions and comments broadcast around the world about the late queen. However, on this occasion, I would like to note some of my own impressions about the British Crown, especially since Egypt was under British occupation until 1954, when the government of Gamal Abdel Nasser succeeded in driving British troops out of the country.
When I heard of the queen’s death, I immediately recalled a book that I had read at an early age – about 16 years old – in my father’s library. The book’s title was The Secret of the Progress of the Anglo-Saxons. The book immediately caught my eye! Among many other things, the book taught me that the natural and understandable rejection of the English occupation of Egypt shouldn’t prevent us from recognizing the great advantages and developments brought about by the British nation.
The funny thing is that this book is nothing but a translation of a French book first published in 1897, in which its author tries to crack the secret behind the advantage held by the English over the French.
As for me, the book prompted me to ask myself: Did we, the Egyptian people and government, learn anything from the English? Indeed, many of Egypt’s brilliant students traveled to study in Britain and returned home with their degrees to benefit our people and our country. But have we learned and benefited from the institutions left behind by the Brits in Egypt?
I don’t think so! I know that the Indians, who were also subjected to British occupation, learned three important things from the English: the English language, administration, and democracy.
So what have we learned?
– Osama Al-Ghazali Harb
(*Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)
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