Three Arab writers opining on Middle East issues address:

  • whether time is now ripe for the pursuit of a meaningful peace between Israelis and Palestinians
  • an upcoming Islamic conference in Mecca to discuss issues of moderation, extremism, tolerance and coexistence
  • The inescapable “Trump factor” on American politics and beyond

(*Translation from the Arabic by Asaf Zilberfarb)


By Rami Al-Khalifa Al-Ali 

Okaz, Saudi Arabia, August 10

The Arab-Israeli conflict is one of the world’s longest-running and most tragic military standoffs, having brought great pain, death, and destruction to the region. Since the Nakba, various political actors have taken power in Israel without fully recognizing that there are other people in the land of Palestine who are entitled to their own peoplehood and homeland. Israel’s logic has been to implement changes on the ground that legitimize its superiority, yet this strategy has failed to create lasting peace and stability for the Jewish state. Military superiority may temporarily bring truces, but it cannot guarantee true peace. For decades, Israeli governments have been asking how they can garner the greatest gains under an imposed reality where Israel enjoys clear superiority over the Palestinians, who can only depend on the support of their Arab brethren and their own strength to withstand the situation. Perhaps it is time for Israel to reframe the question:

How can we live together on this land with the Palestinian people? How can we become an integral and genuine part of the region and its people?

Since the Madrid Conference [in 1991], we have missed out on numerous avenues to establish peace, yet today the prospects seem brighter. This is particularly true for Israel, where many citizens now recognize the looming threats arising from changes to the country’s political system. Numerous regional leaders have the potential, willingness, and capability to construct pathways toward peace. Here, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia deserves particular attention. He carries an expansive project that extends beyond the kingdom, encompassing the realism of economics, politics, and society. His Highness is determined to bring security and stability to the entire Middle East. Already, he has changed the face of the region in a brief period, beginning with the AlUla GCC Summit and the most recent Arab League Summit. These efforts led to successful negotiations with Iran, bridge building across the East and West, and the recent development of an international vision to broker a cease-fire in the Russo-Ukrainian war.

Pursuing Peace. Some 15,000 Palestinians and Israelis came together this 2023 to ‘try to break the chain of revenge and hatred’ on the day Israel honours its soldiers. (Photo: Adam Sella/Al Jazeera)

Real peace requires consensus from both sides. If the Palestinians have strong leadership that desires peace, and if the Arab leadership is motivated and has an influential personality like Prince Mohammed bin Salman, then this is a great opportunity that may not present itself again. This message is not only directed at Tel Aviv but also Washington: The US has the means and power to contribute meaningfully to the pursuit of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

  • Rami Al-Khalifa Al-Ali 


By Meshary Al-Dhaidi

Asharq Al-Awsat, London, August 11

With the generous blessing of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs is scheduled to host an Islamic conference in Mecca titled “Communication with the Departments of Religious Affairs, Ifta and Sheikhdoms in the World”. The conference, which will be held on August 13-14, will be attended by 150 scholars, as well as 85 muftis, sheikhs, thinkers, and academics who will discuss issues of moderation, extremism, tolerance, and coexistence between peoples.

This is, of course, a commendable quest and a noble effort. But who exactly is representing Islam in its current state? Who is the beacon to all Muslims around the world who rely on its guidance? Muslims are present all over the world, from Muslim-majority nations to the remotest corners of the Christian West. They have become citizens of those countries as well as influential political figures, from Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, and Sayeeda Warsi, former co-chair of Britain’s Conservative Party, to parliamentarians, city mayors, and community leaders. Some have even risen to the position of heads of security agencies. For many years, the call for a moderate culture that embraces the value of tolerance and coexistence has been a matter of imperative urgency, not only in Muslim countries but also far beyond their borders. This is because developing such a discourse and fostering its spread is no longer a concern exclusive to the Islamic faith but a global issue that affects everyone. The consequences of Islamic extremism are felt by all inhabitants of the planet, just like any other kind of extremism. Reaching the goal of forming a thriving Islamic society requires both great courage and political support, as well as persistent effort. The experts in Islamic law must determine if there is an agreed-upon understanding of what Islamic law is. Is it a primordial and undeniable truth? Or is it based on human understanding, such as reason and norm-making?

Conference on Religious Moderation. Around 150 eminent Islamic scholars, muftis, religious leaders, thinkers, heads of Islamic centers and association and academics from universities from 85 countries around the world participated in the conference.

Ultimately, it is up to the experts to make this determination. As the world grapples with the complexities of modern citizenship, legal responsibility, and belonging, the idea of the “nation” holds an ambiguous role. It is both an emotional vessel that binds a people to a larger civilizational framework and a concept that can have both fleeting and destructive implications. Throughout history, countless scholars have sought to understand and explain these issues. It is our sincere hope that those attending this conference, seeking goodwill for the citizens of the world, may have luck in their discussions and endeavors.

  • Meshary Al-Dhaidi


By Abdel-Moneim Said

Al-Ahram, Egypt, August 9

The start of the 21st century was marked by a tragic event when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York, as well as targets in Washington, including the Pentagon. In response, former US President George W. Bush declared a “war on terror” in Afghanistan and Iraq, although these attempts at creating an “American century” ultimately failed.

When Barack Obama entered office, he pursued an opposite approach of reducing the US’s involvement in global conflict. This ultimately set the stage for the election of Donald Trump, a vocal proponent of white nationalism. While he eventually lost the election to Joe Biden, his continued presence in American politics has caused a stir. He rejected the election’s results and incited violence from his supporters, leading to a storming of the Capitol in January 2021. The upcoming United States presidential election is certain to be electrifying, with the prosecution of former President Trump at its center. Trump has denied the 37 charges leveled against him, leading to a schism in the Republican Party between those who stand by the former president and those who don’t.

Enduring Donald. Despite appearances like this at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Donal Trump remains an enduring presence on the world stage. (Photo.Timothy A. Clary/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Another area where the division has become evident is between the Democratic Party’s moderates, headed by President Biden, and the more radical left, headed by “the Squad”. Trump is facing numerous legal battles, including those pertaining to sexual assault, his alleged destabilization of the government, and the possession of confidential presidential documents following his departure from the White House. These sensational trials will prove to be a crucible for the US Constitution itself, as well as for global politics.

Abdel-Moneim Said 

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Two Arab writers opining on Middle East issues address:

– the complex issue of the long-awaited USA visa waiver for Israelis

– an anniversary reflection for Egyptians on the thankful “liberation” from their political landscape of the Muslim Brotherhood

(*Translation from the Arabic by Asaf Zilberfarb)


By James Zogby 

Al-Ittihad, UAE, June 29

It is perplexing and offensive that some Biden Administration officials are hurrying to admit Israel into the US Visa Waiver Program, which enables a quick, visa-upon-arrival entry into the United States. It is difficult to comprehend since both the State Department and the Homeland Security Department are aware that Israel does not meet a fundamental prerequisite for participation in the program, which is to guarantee full equivalence; that is, “equal treatment and freedom of movement for all citizens of the United States regardless of national origin, religion, or race.” Israel has consistently failed to uphold the standard of equal treatment, which is tantamount to discrimination against Arab Americans at its borders. Civil rights advocacy organizations have amassed numerous accounts from Arab Americans, especially Palestinian Americans, who have been forced to endure hourslong interrogations at the Israeli border or were flatly refused entrance and forced to return to the United States. The US State Department has issued travel advisories indicating that American citizens with Arab or Muslim heritage, including Palestinian Americans, often face unequal treatment and significant difficulties when entering Israel. In 2014, due to this discriminatory treatment, Israel’s application to the Visa Waiver Program was denied. In addition, new regulations from Israel specifically targeting Palestinian Americans have made entry into the country even more restricted. However, the Biden Administration seems to have reversed its attitude and is reportedly helping Israel join the Visa Waiver Program. In July, a 30-day trial will begin to assess Israel’s entry screening process. Given the history of discriminatory treatment against citizens of Arab or Muslim descent, including Palestinian Americans, it is confounding that the Biden Administration has decided to backtrack on its stance and attempt to facilitate Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program. Palestinian Americans will be permitted to apply for a 90-day travel authorization through an online portal, a move that the United States is demanding Israel demonstrate by successfully granting such requests to a “critical mass.” While this change offers some benefits, it leaves much to be desired. This policy also narrows the scope of those who are able to use it: that is, only those who possess Palestinian identity cards, estimates suggest this is around 70,000 people.

Requiring Reciprocity. The United States expects Israel under a visa-waiver deal to enable free passage for Palestinian-Americans through Ben Gurion Airport into the West Bank and vice versa. (Abid Katib/Getty Images)

This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of other Arab Americans and Muslim Americans who are excluded from this process due to their prior travel to other Arab or Muslim countries, and who have been subjected to unjust discrimination. The trial underway in Israel does not address the discriminatory treatment of Arab Americans who experience harassment at checkpoints and when departing the country. The Visa Waiver Program should allow both Americans and Israelis equal entry without mandatory prior application or authorization. If accepted, Israelis ought to be given the same access to the United States as all Americans, including those of Arab descent, without requiring a visa. Israel’s purported “alternative solution” to allow limited entry to Palestinians instead of meeting the requirements for the Visa Waiver Program not only fails to address the unjust discrimination faced by Arab Americans, but it also belittles the program’s conditions of reciprocity and thereby insults the citizenship rights of Arab Americans. Israel has long claimed that its policies at the border are driven by security considerations. However, its refusal to accept US passports held by Palestinian Americans and its mistreatment of Arab-American travelers to Lebanon or Egypt paints a different picture of harassment rather than security. If the Israeli government continues in this vein, the US should take steps to withhold the Visa Waiver Program concession. For the last three decades, I have consulted with foreign ministers while in possession of numerous affidavits detailing the experiences of those subjected to harassment or denied entry into Israel. These accounts make it clear that Israel’s conduct is unacceptable. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed this sentiment when she made it clear to her Israeli counterparts that “an American is an American.” We must stand by our citizens, and granting Israel special authority to relegate Arab Americans to second-class status is unthinkable. We cannot allow the Arab American community to be sacrificed so that the Biden Administration can curry favor with Israeli voters. Furthermore, a coalition of 16 senators, 19 representatives, and six prominent liberal American-Jewish organizations have demanded that the Biden Administration suspend the Visa Waiver Program until Israel can demonstrate its reciprocal commitment to honoring the rights of American citizens. 

James Zogby


By Amina Khairy

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, June 28

The date of June 30 – marking the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government – will always remain etched in Egypt’s history as one of the country’s greatest feats. This wasn’t a traditional overthrow characterized by tanks and armed soldiers, but a determined battle waged by civilians who realized, in a brief period of two years, that they had been subject to religious exploitation.

On June 30, the people and army of Egypt united to make history: they rid the land of the corrupt politics of a criminal group that had poisoned it since 1928. This group injected its poisonous ideology into many countries in an effort to control them. But thanks to the brave action of the people and military, Egypt stands liberated today, with its sight toward the future. This is an achievement unmatched in its significance and one that even Brotherhood supporters cannot tarnish.

Cries from Cairo. Protesters opposing then Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood wave Egyptian flags at Tahrir square in Cairo, June 30, 2013. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Ten years ago, Egyptians wrote a chapter in history with their brave and passionate protests. As I recall, I still see the image of women standing at their buildings’ entrances, flags waving, and chants of “down with the rule of the supreme leader!” ringing out. I also remember mothers apprehensively sending their children into the streets to demand the removal of the Brotherhood mafia. June 30th is an iconic date that is remembered for the powerful and moving display of courage by average Egyptian mothers, fathers, and children. It was revealed on June 30 that Egyptians still possess the capacity to discern between right and wrong, and between lost and acquired identity. Additionally, it became obvious that a broad spectrum of citizens – though not all – understand that ridiculing one another undermines the foundation of the nation and blurs the role of religion in everyday life. The journey to modernize Egypt, free it from the poisonous grip of political Islam and save it from the deleterious consequences of faith mingled with politics had begun and will continue from that day forward. Yet, this mission still continues. It is something that requires effort from all of us: citizens, as well as political leaders, state institutions, and the government. It is no exaggeration to say that on June 30, the Egyptian “patient” was discharged from intensive care. Now what that patient needed is follow-up, recuperation, and the bolstering of its strength. My sincerest gratitude goes out to all those that took part in these monumental events, on June 30, 2013, regardless of their motives. 

Amina Khairy

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Three Arab writers opining on Middle East issues, address:

– the  concern of contemporary education in an age where the “pen is a relic,”

–  Florida Governor DeSantis’ candidacy for the White House 

–  whether Hezbullah is integral for Lebanon’s future political stability.

(*Translation from Arabic by Asaf Zilberfarb)


Living in a world of smartphones and laptops require our educators to be tech-savvy and open-minded

By Sa’ad Bin Tefla AlAjmi 

Independent Arabia, Saudi Arabia, May 25

Every educational system in the advanced world is currently experiencing a state of emergency. This emergency surrounds emerging digital technologies and artificial intelligence (AI). It is necessary to revise curricula, contemplate shortening the amount of time spent in high school, update textbooks, and rethink the settings and delivery of education. As we move into a digital reality, it is essential to ensure that education evolves to keep pace with this rapidly shifting revolution. Questions posed by educators and politicians in the US Congress recently brought Sam Altman, the CEO of the groundbreaking tech company OpenAI, for an open hearing. The technology, which was released mere months ago, can provide written information in multiple languages within seconds. The purpose of the hearing was to understand in greater detail the warnings that Altman and others have issued about pressing legislation regarding the proper uses of AI before it’s too late.

Those in Congress and academic circles are considering the influence this rapid flow of data will have on studies, education, scientific research, and scholarly publications. Educators are advocating for a change in the traditional approach to education, shifting it away from indoctrination and towards guidance and fostering skills of thought and analysis. We cannot accept a generation indoctrinated with memorized knowledge without being able to reflect, discuss, evaluate, or refute it. The integration of artificial intelligence has brought about an evolution of the teaching-student-place triad, and therefore, calls for the preparedness of modern educators to understand the implications of digital transformation and the use and applications of AI in education. Having been part of the education system for over 40 years – as a student, teacher, teaching assistant, and lecturer – I have witnessed the drastic changes between the generations before and after the digital revolution. We now live in a world of smartphones and laptops that require our educators to be tech-savvy and open-minded. I have witnessed fading human and cognitive engagement with my students. In some lectures, this has led to utter disconnection. I have found myself reiterating lectures repeatedly over the decades in an attempt to keep up with the ever-changing tools. The traditional blackboard has become obsolete, having been replaced by computer technology. Pens have become a relic of the past, and paper and books are in short supply. Such a drastic change is unsettling and reflects the disconnect between modern technology and traditional learning. I stood before a generation fixated on their screens, seemingly unconcerned with discussing, debating, or embracing a topic of discussion. My colleagues and I felt the weight of our responsibility, and we are still committed to proposing a renewal that constantly challenges the status quo, to prevent indoctrination and the obstacles posed by traditional education.

The traditional blackboard is increasingly been replaced by computer technology.

High school graduates arrive at the university without the critical thinking needed to challenge and criticize the opinions and beliefs they hear around them. Consequently, critical analysis and questioning are not encouraged in the minds of students who are programmed to accept and submit to their teachers’ teachings without criticism or review. The traditional teaching of history often mixes religion with facts, which grants a sense of impenetrable sanctity to events and figures from the past. This creates a culture of dependence and intellectual stagnation, passed down to successive generations. For example, we may gain a religious generation; however, this does not prevent them from cheating on exams or plagiarizing scientific research. In fact, many believe that cheating in worldly sciences is permissible with the blessing of religious dogma. In this age of digital information and artificial intelligence, we must ask ourselves:

How can we better impart knowledge to future generations?

Rather than adhering to traditional indoctrination, is there a more effective and ethical educational system that we can turn to in order to better equip our youth for the future? 

  • Sa’ad Bin Tefla AlAjmi 


By Emile Amin

Al Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, May 26

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced his intention to run for the US presidential primary race in 2024. The young governor has become a phenomenon in the Republican Party and is perhaps the only competition to former President Donald Trump, who is advancing, despite all hardships, in his bid to again clinch the Republican nomination. It is undeniable that DeSantis has a charismatic persona, a glowing record, and a family unit that almost looks like that of the late President John F. Kennedy. Indeed, Ron DeSantis has all the attributes that have led politicians to enter the White House.

With a doctorate in law from prestigious Harvard University, DeSantis is considered to be a member of the highly educated American intelligentsia. His service in the US Armed Forces, along with the Bronze Star for his bravery, has enabled him to obtain the so-called “green light” from the military. DeSantis’ foray into politics began when he served in the US House of Representatives from 2013 to 2018, before officially becoming the governor of Florida in 2019. Yet where the young governor stands ideologically is still a conundrum to many, especially given the numerous stances DeSantis has expressed over the past year. The darling of the new Republican Party routinely makes the rounds via traditional as well as social media, becoming a leader in the war of ideas that his party has seen fit to wage against a broad range of ideologically diverse politicians, companies, and intellectuals, particularly from the left. Conservatives have helped shape the upcoming presidential contest into one of cultural, ideological, and dogmatic divisions. Gov. DeSantis has taken a hard-line stance on abortion, introducing restrictive laws at six weeks of pregnancy that were even too much for former President Trump to stomach. This raises the question of how deeply his religious convictions really run, and should his Catholicism be an active part of his decisions, or will it be a dormant force as is the case with President Biden, who is Catholic yet openly supports abortion?

Besides abortion, there are further issues that reveal Gov. DeSantis’ rightward leanings. He has ordered schools in Florida to refrain from teaching theories of racial equality and organizing discussions about sexual identity. As more steps are taken to legalize same-sex relationships, and their advocates become more vocal in different states, DeSantis has expressed his rejection of what he calls “fraudulent tolerance” regarding the LGBT community in the United States. This wins over millions of traditional conservatives but also alienates millions of others who see him as being extreme.

Does governor DeSantis have what it takes to shift residence from Florida to Washington DC?

DeSantis appears far removed from circles that favor the casual use of firearms among civilians, yet he did not directly address the matter of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which concerns this right. On the other hand, the issue of illegal immigration is one of those issues on which DeSantis takes a firm stance, and has not let up on his claims that the Biden Administration’s lax policies at the border have enabled a massive influx of undocumented immigrants into the country. He continues to emphasize what he views as “the damaging impacts of illegal immigration resulting from the federal government’s careless border policies.” A follower of DeSantis’s ideology might be perplexed, especially since he does not uphold the consensus of the broader Republican Party, as evidenced in his stance on abortion. This begs the question: Who is placing their faith in the Florida governor? Banning abortion is popular among some conservatives in the Republican voting base, yet this has caused many to swing their votes in favor of the Democrats. It is no secret that the Democrats have been a hindrance to many of DeSantis’ initiatives, particularly those spearheaded by the more progressive wing of the party and the Democratic National Committee. Recently, the DNC described DeSantis’ abortion ban as “extreme” and declared that it “disrupts women’s ability to make health care decisions before they even know they are pregnant.” It has been widely speculated that DeSantis could be in the running for the White House in 2024 or 2028, which one can infer from the title of his recent memoir, ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’. The book offers an understanding of DeSantis’ convictions, although he has shied away from discussing his potential ambitions on the national stage. Nevertheless, it is clear that his administration in Florida is a reflection of his values and views on American politics. The trajectory of DeSantis’ life has demonstrated that he is a paragon of nobility among politicians: one who is able and willing to stand by their conscience, regardless of possible consequences or rewards. This staunchness sets him apart, raising him above engaging in political disputes and entrusting him with the noble aim of improving America and restoring its damaged moral compass.

Could DeSantis be America’s next leader?

  • Emile Amin


By Bechara Charbel

Nidaa Al Watan, Lebanon, June 2

It was far from easy for President Macron to hear from Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, the head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church, that most of the country’s Christian population opposed the appointment of a joint candidate with Hezbollah for the presidency. Macron must have been disappointed when his initiative to nominate Suleiman Frangieh, leader of the Marada Movement, fell short of success, yet he was wise enough to encourage the country to press ahead with seeking a consensus. When French interests are set aside, the goal of avoiding an indefinite political impasse is admirable. Moreover, Macron showed no qualms in defending Frangieh as the only viable option who had “passed Hezbullah’s test”. This kind of political realism may work for a superpower like France, but the recent protests in Lebanon have revealed a growing sentiment of desperation amongst citizens to free themselves from a corrupted elite, as well as to no longer be victim to threats and intimidations. Perhaps Macron was justified in his worry about the potential long-term damage caused by an extended vacancy in the premiership, which would only exacerbate Lebanon’s economic woes. Obstruction resulting from Hezbullah ran deep – considerably beyond the two-and-a-half-year wait for Michel Aoun’s inauguration as president – forming crippling delays in the establishment of government and constitutional institutions. However, Macron’s warning to Patriarch Al-Rahi of the dangers of attempting to convene a “founding conference” – driven by Hezbullah with an aim of threatening the security of Christians’ position in the state – appears to be based on a lack of appreciation for the fragility of Lebanese society and politics. It represents an attempt to absolve France of historical responsibility towards Christians in the hope of absolving its sense of guilt. This calls for two things. First, Hezbullah appears to be prioritizing its own influence over the Lebanese political scene with the complicity of Christian officials. Secondly, many Christians are no longer afraid of a potential Hezbullah-organized constituent conference as the current system has failed to protect them and they want a new political framework that grants them security, prevents their children from leaving Lebanon, and ensures their quality of life.

Is Lebanon’s fragile future dependent on Hezbullah? A woman shouts slogans, as she holds a portrait for Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during a rally to mark Jerusalem day, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, April 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Moreover, Hezbullah is achieving domination of the government apparatus without the need to overtly declare that it is furthering Shiite interests. The election of a consensual president in Lebanon may be a welcome surprise for Lebanon. This president may be able to make a serious attempt to reestablish the state by implementing the Taif Agreement and breaking free from the vacuum of the old system. In order to ensure civil peace and preserve the rights of Lebanese citizens, a constituent conference should be held to discuss practical ways to break away from the archaic, centralized political structure of the “old” Lebanon.

Such a move could perhaps provide a clearer path for the future of Lebanon.

  • Bechara Charbel

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Three Arab writers opining on Middle East issues, address the stir caused by a Black actor playing the role of Cleopatra; why Arabs are following with interest the election in Turkey and why the West needs to address problems in the Middle East directly and with more urgency.

(*Translation from Arabic by Asaf Zilberfarb)


By Meshary Al-Dhaidi

Asharq Al-Awsat, London, April 29

Do filmmakers have the right to alter historical accounts to align with their own ideological and political leanings? Recently, a stir was created after Netflix announced they would be producing a documentary about the illustrious Egyptian Queen Cleopatra  with images depicting the monarch with Black African features. Netflix announced the release of a series of documentaries supported by male and female activists from the American Black Movement.

“Queen Cleopatra,” as portrayed by British actor Adele James in the Netflix “docudrama” set to release on May 10, 2023.

This trend, which is both cultural and artistic, attempts to counter racism and rewrite history in favor of Blacks. Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, recently commented on the film, emphasizing that its portrayal of the iconic queen as a Black African woman is a falsification of history. He believes that this is particularly egregious since the movie is classified as a documentary, rather than a drama.

Waziri further highlighted that all statues depicting Cleopatra reflect her Hellenistic Greek features, such as light skin, a drawn nose, and thin lips. Dr. Nasser Makkawi, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Department at the Faculty of Archaeology at Cairo University, claims that the depiction of Cleopatra in this film contradicts the most basic historical facts and the accounts of historians, such as Plutarch and Cassius Dio. They recorded Roman history in Egypt during Queen Cleopatra’s reign, and confirmed that she was fair-skinned and of pure Macedonian descent.

Cleopatra, as portrayed in the 1963 Hollywood movie by Elizabeth Taylor.20TH CENTURY STUDIOS

It would have been possible to accept this absurd and fictitious portrayal of Cleopatra, provided that viewers understand it as such. Otherwise, it is an ideological falsehood. Do others have the right to present films with white characters, such as Brad Pitt playing the role of Nelson Mandela or Muhammad Ali? How would Black leaders react to such a decision?

– Meshary Al-Dhaidi


By Ali Hamada 

An-Nahar, Lebanon, May 12

The latest issue of the prestigious British magazine The Economist conveys a clear message on its cover: “The most important elections in 2023,” which refers to the upcoming elections in Turkey. The magazine is firmly opposed to the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamic Justice and Development party he leads. The editorial in the issue is dedicated to this position and calls for the overthrow of Erdogan, who is classified as an Islamic autocrat allied with other autocrats, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan faces a huge election test against a united opposition led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

In the coming years, these elections will have repercussions not only for the region, but also for Europe and Asia. This position has been echoed by most European and American media outlets, some of which have gone as far as publicly slandering the Turkish president. 

In the Arab world, the concern is palpable, as Turkey, the nation closest to them, approaches its election day. Turkey’s size and Erdogan’s two-decade rule under the Justice and Development party have made this election more consequential than any before it. Should the president and his party fall, the election will be a watershed moment for the region, potentially changing the course of one of the Middle East’s major powers. 

The reverberations of such an event will be felt in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt and beyond. As the polls opened in Turkey, the region was poised to witness a shift in power with the potential fall of President Erdogan. Analyses suggest that this could drastically alter Turkish foreign policy, particularly in its “vital sphere,” which includes Arab states. 

Erdogan’s “neo-Ottoman project” has sought to expand Turkey’s influence in the region, and his potential fall could lead to a reshuffling of alliances. While some Arab countries may celebrate Erdogan’s fall, others may have to reevaluate their bet on the existing alliance.

Whatever the outcome, the region is set to experience major changes. The Turkish elections are garnering significant attention from the Arab political and media worlds, as they are the first elections President Erdogan has run without being guaranteed a victory beforehand. 

Several scenarios may arise based on the outcome of the elections. If Erdogan wins the presidency but loses the parliamentary majority, his power will remain wide-reaching, albeit more difficult to wield than before. If he loses both the presidency and the parliament, his rule will be met with daily disruption from a parliament attempting to undo the constitution he put in place in 2017. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled Turkey for more than 20 years. For the first time, he isn’t the favorite to win an election.

If Erdogan’s party wins the parliament but he loses the presidency, it will be a major setback, as his authority has been a major factor in the success of the Justice and Development party. It is likely that the elections will result in a delicate balance, with Erdogan in the presidency and a dispersed parliament between his party and the six-party alliance. This could result in minor shifts in Turkish foreign policy, with a decrease in Erdogan’s influence over any future coalition government.

– Ali Hamada 


By Abdullah Juma Al-Haj

Al-Ittihad, UAE, May 3

In recent years, the political landscape in the Middle East has become increasingly complex and intertwined. Leaders of the major powers involved in the region have learned that tenacity often yields positive results. Consequently, the outlook and objectives of world leaders must be focused on achieving a balance between the interests of the people of the region and those of the great powers.

Optimism may appear difficult for those familiar with the region’s issues and problems, yet even the biggest pessimists will agree that conflicts can be reduced in intensity, even if they cannot be fully resolved in a short time.

Over the past 60 years, Western policies toward the region have been inconsistent. These policies have been tried, leading to a greater continuity of disagreement or division within the countries involved, and while they have achieved some successes, they have also been marked by waves of disappointment among the Arabs.

It is remarkable that Westerners have persistently sought to bring peace to the region, and all are proud of the efforts made, yet subsequent politicians have not built upon the foundations of their predecessors’ policies. For example, the current administration in the US is facing more delicate and intricate issues, due to the new Russian and Chinese approaches toward the region and beyond.

Therefore, US politicians and diplomats must explore Russia and China’s intentions toward the region’s problems and act accordingly.

Skill required in the stiff competition for the future of the Middle East.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the escalating trade and economic war with China have caused deep divisions among Western countries – the US and EU – and both Russia and China. To prevent the world from slipping into a dangerous slide that could lead to its destruction and the annihilation of humanity, Western diplomacy must seek to engage in a new constructive dialogue with these two countries regarding the pressing issues of today.

A dialogue that provides a platform to address the issues in the Arab region and its regional surroundings must be pursued to promote peace, whether it be concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian peace process, or the relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and its neighbors.

After the Gulf wars, Western politicians have been unable to come to a consensus on the nature of their military and strategic relations with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt, and Jordan. This has led to strained relations between the parties that should be allies. To ensure a more harmonious relationship, Western countries must strive to reach a broader agreement with these friendly nations.

The agenda of Western countries in the region is packed with pressing matters, and they require innovative thinking to tackle them, as well as ample financial aid. In some foreign policies, time can bring solutions, but in others, this is unfeasible and requires urgent and direct action.

When it comes to the problems of the Arab region, the latter approach is more effective, and if Westerners want to realize their interests prudently, they must address them promptly and directly.

– Abdullah Juma Al-Haj

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Three Arab writers opining on Middle East issues, address Israel in crisis over right-wing judicial overhaul; fear of a nuclear Iran  “within 12 days”, and reflections on the Aqaba Summit aimed at easing local tensions before Ramadan and Passover   

*(translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)


By Tarek Fahmy

Al Ittihad, UAE, March 4

Demonstrations in Israel’s streets have gradually grown in response to the Netanyahu government’s measures concerning the judiciary. Despite the passing of the Judiciary Law in its preliminary readings in the Knesset, the underlying issue is larger than the Supreme Court’s powers and functions. It is related to the relationship between state institutions, the government’s information apparatus, and the desire to limit Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s power.

Netanyahu’s battle with the judiciary is only a precursor to what is to come. The opposition to his judicial reforms has steadily expanded, garnering the attention of notable businessmen, former military personnel, religious leaders, and scientists – a precedent unseen in the history of the Israeli state. This situation reveals the depth of instability Israel is facing. These internal rifts within Israeli society can’t simply be ignored. The opposition to Netanyahu has grown beyond Israel’s borders, with a strong mobilization in Jewish organizations, particularly in the United States, where influential circles have spoken out against the Netanyahu government. This signals that the instability in Israel is not exclusively a result of disagreements over the extent of Netanyahu’s power, but rather a wider issue. As the Israeli Supreme Court has the power to deem Netanyahu unfit for office, this could have far-reaching consequences. Netanyahu is currently being tried on multiple charges and is attempting to delay the trials for as long as he can. Nonetheless, the opposition parties lack the ability and experience to effectively counter Netanyahu, even with the support of President Herzog, who has gone beyond his authority to find solutions to the current crisis. The Israeli Right believes that the Supreme Court has systematically ruled in favor of liberal voices while undermining conservative ones. In recent years, the decisions of the Supreme Court have sought to limit the government’s control over religious institutions. The religious parties, as well as other right-wing parties in Netanyahu’s coalition, are attempting to pass measures in the West Bank and Jerusalem in order to accelerate their settlement plan. This includes renouncing all agreements made with the Palestinians, such as the Oslo and Paris accords.

Protesters gather outside Israel’s Parliament in Jerusalem on March 27, 2023, amid calls for a general strike against the hard-right government’s controversial push to overhaul the justice system.– | Afp | Getty Images

This unrest has led to seven major demonstrations in Israel, with the possibility of further escalation if the coalition ministers, such as Ben Gvir and Smotrich, continue to pursue their plan. Netanyahu faces a significant challenge in his ability to take external action such as striking Iran due to the divided internal political landscape of his current coalition, which has limited experience and is focused on his own narrow interests. This will lead to a growing risk of societal escalation and ultimately, an unstable state of affairs in Israel. 

Tarek Fahmy


By Ali Hamada

An-Nahar, Lebanon, March 3

The debate is no longer about whether Iran will become a nuclear power but rather about when it will be able to do so. This comes after the Pentagon reported that Iran could produce a nuclear weapon in as little as twelve days.

William Burns, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, further lent credence to this claim by noting that Iran has the capability to enrich uranium to 90%, the level needed for a military nuclear program. Speculation has abounded over the past two years regarding the potential revival of the 2015 nuclear deal. Both Iran and the United States had pledged to adhere to the deal, yet no progress was made until April 2022. In September, European Foreign and Security Policy Coordinator Josep Borrell presented a comprehensive paper for the agreement and Washington accepted it. However, Tehran stalled and proposed conditions, such as forcing Washington to lift sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in conjunction with their acceptance of the deal. Despite Borrell’s efforts and the pressure group in the White House led by Robert Malley, the American official responsible for the Iranian issue, the agreement may have been derailed by the Russian war on Ukraine. Both Israel and regional neighbors have already warned that Iran’s nuclear program is not peaceful and civilian in purpose, but rather a cover for a secret military program. Tehran has increased the quantities of highly enriched uranium 19 times more than permitted and refuses to comply with the 2015 nuclear agreement. This suggests that it is not a matter of diplomatic maneuvering. Rather, Iran’s goal is to produce the first Iranian nuclear bomb as soon as possible.

The regime is further weakened by the wave of protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini, which has caused a disturbance in the foundations of the regime and its legitimacy. Today, we must consider the prospect of a nuclear Iran. Is it possible to exist peacefully with it on a regional and global scale? If not, what are the available options to address this problem? Could an Israeli-American strike be launched to disable the nuclear program? What might the repercussions and outcomes of the Iranian regime’s reaction be? Moreover, it is reasonable to question whether the West will respond weakly to this pressing issue and whether Russia will join the Euro +1 group, which includes Israel, in an effort to bring about a resolution. We must focus our attention on the perilous situation that the region and even the global community faces if the West were to initiate a military attack against Iran’s nuclear program. It is also important to consider the consequences if Iran were to acquire nuclear capabilities. Would the mullahs act with more restraint than their current behavior indicates?

These are difficult questions that must be considered in light of the fear of annihilation that such actions could bring. 

Ali Hamada


By James Zogby

Al-Ittihad, UAE, March 12

The Aqaba Summit highlighted the failings of US policy toward Israel and Palestine. Hosted by Jordan, the gathering of leaders from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Egypt and the US sought to ease tensions ahead of Ramadan and Passover. However, the summit failed to address the key issues, instead opting to settle on a series of outdated half-measures proposed by the US. Israel agreed to a temporary freeze on settlement activity and demolitions of Palestinian homes, a decrease in raids on Palestinian population centers, respect of the status quo in Jerusalem, and the release of tax money owed to Palestinians under existing agreements. The Palestinian Authority agreed to suspend its bid for recognition at the United Nations, boost security cooperation with Israel, and use extra tax revenues to recruit and train – with US backing – new security forces to better monitor armed resistance groups in the occupied territories.

Palestinian youths in Gaza city demonstrate on 26 February 2023 against an Israeli-Palestinian summit hosted by Jordan in Aqaba. [Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

However, the outcome of the summit demonstrated that these agreements were inadequate and far removed from reality. The Palestinians are still reeling from the recent Israeli operation in Nablus, which escalated into a massacre that left 11 dead and over 100 Palestinians injured. At the summit’s conclusion, Palestinian gunmen fatally shot two Israeli settlers in their vehicle in the village of Huwara. Within a few hours, hundreds of extremist Israeli settlers descended upon Huwara, injuring hundreds of Palestinian residents and setting fire to hundreds of homes and cars. Since the new government led by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has come to power, raids and settler violence have drastically increased with impunity. After the Aqaba Summit, bloody raids, shootings and settler attacks have only continued. Following an Israeli raid that resulted in the death of six Palestinians in Jenin, the Palestinian Authority security forces attacked the funeral procession of one of the victims and objected to the raising of Hamas flags, further solidifying the Palestinians’ perception of the Palestinian Authority as an “arm of the Israeli occupation.” When news of the Aqaba “agreements” spread in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu swiftly declared there would be no settlement freeze. Another minister announced his intention to continue demolishing Palestinian homes in Jerusalem during Ramadan. An Israeli member of Knesset joked that “what happened in Aqaba stays in Aqaba.” These events triggered a chaotic situation in Israel and Palestine. The current Israeli government consists of hard-liners who are often violent and refuse to recognize the rights of Palestinians. After the United States has supported Israeli governments for many decades, Israelis in power feel they can evade responsibility and accountability. The Palestinian Authority has been weakened by its failure to fulfill the “promise of peace” and its humiliation by the United States and Israel, leading to a lack of support from disgruntled voters who now retaliate when provoked. The Palestinians are likewise out of control. It is misguided for the United States to assume the Aqaba proposals will restore order. Instead of applying a Band-Aid to the festering wound, Washington should have used a scalpel to identify and address the root causes of Israelis’ sense of entitlement and impunity and Palestinians’ anger at continued abuses. Unless the United States sets firm boundaries for Israel and tangible negative repercussions for its ongoing misdeeds, the violence will not cease, a new discourse within Israel will not take shape, and the Palestinians will not find solace. This change will not come about overnight; decades of political mismanagement have plunged us into this abyss.

To get out of this quagmire requires courage, dedication and foresight. For the sake of safety, until this happens, we must brace ourselves for more trying days ahead.

– James Zogby

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Arab writers opining on Middle East issues, address the wider ramifications from the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria

(*Articles translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)


By Sami Abd Al-Latif Al-Nisf

An-Nahar, Lebanon, February 9

The world has been sending its heartfelt condolences to the innocent victims of the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. The destruction caused by the earthquakes, coupled with the freezing temperatures, hail and rain, necessitates the urgent and generous support of Kuwait, the Gulf and Arab countries, and the international community.

The magnitude of the disaster is unprecedented. This is the worst earthquake to hit Turkey since 1939. As the Turkish leadership noted in their recent address yesterday, the survivors of the earthquake require aid in the form of tents, blankets, medicine and food.

As we rally to support the Kuwaiti and Gulf relief efforts for Turkey, we must also ensure that aid is delivered to those affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria. Working in coordination with the Syrian leadership and international organizations, we must guarantee that the aid reaches those in need in areas such as Hama and Aleppo.

Ruin in Rumaila. A family from the Rumaila area in Jableh district in northwestern Syria stands close to their destroyed house. © UNICEF/Hasan Belal

It is time for any internal or external political disputes to be set aside, and for us to fulfill our responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Syria facing this catastrophe. Geological studies suggest that this could be the start of a series of devastating earthquakes that may continue until the end of the year.

We must not forget those in need. At this time, when the world is moved by the plight of the victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, it is important to remember the lack of humanity shown by some extremists when similar disasters have befallen non-Muslim nations.

Instead of empathizing with those in need, they have gloated, expressed hatred and attributed these natural disasters to the words and actions of political leaders in those countries, without explaining why the whole population is being punished for the wrongdoings of a few. How can they justify the exposure of our Islamic countries to the same disasters with even more severity and casualties? It is essential that we show a little humanity and modesty.

– Sami Abd Al-Latif Al-Nisf


By Kheir Allah Kheir Allah

Al Rai, Kuwait, February 9

The devastating earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria has had a dramatic impact on the political realities of the two regions. In particular, Turkey’s plan to form a buffer zone within Syrian territory, some 30km to 35km deep, has been thrown into question.

The Turkish regions that have been affected by the earthquake, have seen much of their infrastructure destroyed. Rebuilding these areas will require tens of billions of dollars, compounding the existing economic crisis already gripping Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s grand ambitions to take a dominant role in the region, all the way to Libya, have been starkly revealed as overreaching. He must now reevaluate his plans for 2023 and Turkey’s regional role, as well as the 1923 international treaties that imposed restrictions on Turkey following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, notably with regard to its control of the Bosporus strait.

The recent earthquake in Turkey has highlighted the country’s need for support from the US and Europe – if it wishes to be respected as an influential player on the world stage. Erdogan’s attempt to curry favor with Vladimir Putin by purchasing a Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, despite Turkey’s status as a core member of NATO, is a misguided maneuver that will not bring the country closer to its goals.

Additionally, the end of Erdogan’s efforts to pressure Bashar Assad into meeting certain conditions and signing a new version of the Adana Agreement of 1998, will be seen as a relief by the Syrian regime. The agreement that enabled the handover of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to the Syrian regime, allowed Turkey to authorize its forces to enter Syrian territory if necessary.

Despite attempts to spread news of international leaders contacting the Assad regime, a sense of relief will not last long. In fact, the world, including powerful Arab nations, will increase its focus on Syria, albeit from a humanitarian perspective, rather than for the purpose of rehabilitating a regime that is aware it is at war with its own people and lacks autonomy in decision-making.

The Syrian regime has become a follower of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This development will likely be welcomed by Syrian Kurds, represented by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF’s ties to the US will strengthen, and they will have more freedom of action as a result of their relationship with the US and the reduction of Turkish pressure.

The devastating earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria was a tragic event that overshadowed all other news around the globe. But the resulting political realities, both in terms of Turkey, President Erdogan and its regional role, and the Syrian regime, cannot be ignored.

Human tragedy complicates Turkey’s agenda. Seen here is Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visiting on February 8 displaced residents in Kahramanmaras, Turkey.(Photo Anadolu Agency/Anadolu)

The fate of the Syrian regime is now hostage to the destiny of the Iranian regime and the various regional issues it is associated with. Ultimately, the Western world will return to its interests in how to address Iran’s nuclear program, as well as the Iranian regime’s destructive role in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.

Attention will be paid to Iranian militias and their presence in southern Syria, and whether or not Iran will respond to the recent Israeli strike which targeted a key military site in Isfahan possibly linked to the production of ballistic missiles. Here, it is worth noting the growing possibility of US-Israeli coordination on Iran, and its activities outside its borders.

The devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria has brought to the forefront, not only the human tragedy of the event, with an estimated 40,000 dead and tens of thousands of displaced people, but also the political ramifications.

The earthquake raises questions about Turkey’s role in the region and the world. President Erdogan had been hoping for 2023 to be a year of new beginnings for Turkey, with the removal of restrictions imposed by treaties signed a century ago. The success of this will depend on two things: the outcome of the May elections and Erdogan’s ability to face reality rather than clinging to illusions. It is up to Erdogan to be more realistic in his dealings with Greece, rather than using it as a campaign issue for internal voter mobilization.

 – Kheir Allah Kheir Allah

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Two Arab writers opining on Middle East issues, address Israel in the aftermath of is national election and Lebanon literally ‘going to the birds’, with Beirut Airport  threatened by seagulls

(*Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)


By Amir Taheri 

Asharq Al-Awsat, London, January 8, 2023

There are phrases I never thought I, as a student of history, would read, let alone write. However, there is one such statement that is in widespread circulation these days, and I feel no qualms about repeating it: Binyamin Netanyahu is a moderate politician!

Certainly, the “golden boy” of the Israeli political scene appears as a moderate figure within the new government he just formed. Some commentators even call him the “only moderate” in his new government. Others see his return to power as a sign that Israel is “a country deeply divided against itself,” as Alan Dershowitz puts it. Meanwhile, other commentators warn that the recent general elections, which ended in victory for right-wing parties, have pushed Israel “over the edge.”

Israelis going to the polls for the fifth time in three years.

A writer who describes herself as a descendant of one of the victims of the Holocaust warned that “what was built in Israel in 75 years may disintegrate within a very short period of time.” Indeed, the history of Israel, as a newly revived state, is filled with “extremist” and “dangerous” elements that have become paradigms of moderation. The problem is that, when it comes to Israel, the only criterion for deciding whether one is a political moderate or extremist is based on his or her position on the Palestinian issue. Things get more complicated when we remember that the “Palestinian cause” was never clearly defined. It was dealt with incidentally, at first as a refugee problem with the slogan of the right of return. This resulted in keeping an increasing number of Palestinians inside refugee camps in several countries, without taking any measures to resettle them. As for the issue of a direct return to what has become Israel, this became almost impossible because, in order to achieve the right of return, the country to which refugees hope to return must have legitimacy. This was certainly impossible as long as the Arab states denied the existence of Israel in the first place. Decades later, some said they had discovered the two-state solution. Naturally, the United Nations proposed this plan, and the Israelis accepted it under the leadership of the “extremist” David Ben-Gurion in 1947, but it was rejected by neighboring Arab countries. The revival of this proposal came from Western powers, led by the United States, as a diplomatic attempt to achieve the impossible. For decades now, almost everyone has contented themselves with simply talking about an imaginary “solution” or “road maps” toward achieving this solution, without asking themselves whether the Israelis and Palestinians really want it. The truth is that most opinion polls and election campaigns reveal that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians do not want a two-state solution, and I think that this is because it’s unclear what this solution means in the first place. Within the new Israeli Knesset, only 10 out of 120 members support this formula. However, even these supporters cannot determine where the borders of one state end and the borders of the other begins. As this path reached a dead end, the “Palestinian problem” was redefined as the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. However, even at this point, the problem of ambiguity persists. For their part, proponents of settlements have never indicated how far settlements should be allowed to expand, while opponents of settlements have never specified how many settlements should be dismantled. In any case, the dismantling of all the settlements in Gaza did not succeed in achieving the desired peace.

Polling station at an Arab town in Israel in November 2022.(Reuters Ammar Awad)

Over time, talking about the settlement issue has become tedious and consuming. A new version of the “Palestinian problem” has emerged and has been recycled: Israeli apartheid. In apartheid South Africa, people of color and black people were not allowed to vote or be elected. On the other hand, we find that within Israel non-Jewish citizens can do both, which they do in practice. Palestinians in the West Bank do not have these rights, because they are not citizens of Israel. Apparently, the majority of Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank understand this, and the Palestinians understand that no Israeli coalition, whether left, right or center, is going to offer them a deal they can accept. They also realize that the “Palestinian cause” is often exploited by ambitious Israeli politicians to cover their own nakedness in terms of the credible policies they hold. In 2000, Ariel Sharon visited to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, accompanied by a huge entourage, as the opening shot in an election campaign that ended in his victory as prime minister. Today, the new defense minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is re-enacting a similar scene, in which he appears as a dwarf cartoon image of Sharon. The truth is that, as has happened with Sharon, Ben-Gvir’s visit to the holy site only received attention once he entered office. Indeed, Ben-Gvir seems more interested in milking the Israeli state’s cow for worldly gains than in offering credible policies to Israeli society in general. In fact, Dershowitz is wrong. Israel is not a country deeply divided. The reality tells us that less than 10% of the electorate chose what has been called the “extreme right” bloc, even though the Haredi base on which it relies, an ultra-Orthodox version of Judaism, constitutes 12% of the total population. The most recent poll revealed that only 31% of Israelis view the “Palestinian issue” as their primary concern. Opinion polls within the West Bank also reveal that policies related to livelihood and the eradication of corruption are top priorities for Palestinians. Thus, it becomes clear that the excessive obsession with the “Palestinian cause” is an issue that has no clear solution, and has diverted many efforts away from the current problems facing both the Israelis and the Palestinians. A nation brimming with creativity like Israel should not be driven into a state of intransigence by politicians like Ben-Gvir over the “Palestinian problem.” Life is much richer than Ben-Gvir’s fantasies. This problem will not find a solution until the Israelis and the Palestinians are convinced that a solution serves their own interests. It is clear that this conviction has not yet been achieved. And even if it ever materializes, there is no guarantee that those who have benefited from the problem and built national strategies around it will allow a solution to be agreed upon and implemented. Meanwhile, we have no choice but to see the status quo continue to persist and pledge to preserve it.

– Amir Taheri 


By Bashara Charbel

Nida Al-Watan, Lebanon, January 7, 2023

If Alfred Hitchcock was destined to return to life, he could not have chosen a better scene than the scene of seagulls hovering over the Costa Brava Landfill located outside Beirut International Airport. Recently, the chairman of the Board of Directors of Middle East Airlines (MEA) demanded that the airline be allowed to bring in hunters who will shoot the seagulls and prevent them from threatening aircraft.

Birds from local rubbish dump causing a threat to Beirut Airport.

This isn’t a fantasy, but rather a real proposal that may translate into a catastrophe for hundreds of people and their families. This story is a classic example of overlapping authorities between the Lebanese government, private corporations and average citizens – with no one claiming responsibility over the issue at hand. The issue of aircraft safety at the Beirut Airport is an issue that should never be undermined. But seagulls are far from the only threat to the airport’s operations.

Lebanon’s seaside Costa Brava dump threatens not only the environment but also airplanes.

Several airplanes have been hit by indiscriminate bullets over the past few weeks. The government must step in and take ownership over this issue. This current situation of overlapping powers and loyalties, conflicts between security agencies and widespread nepotism, is unsustainable. Everyone is walking on eggshells when it comes to the airport. Hezbollah refuses to let anyone intervene, with the fear that its’ steady source of dollars, arriving on planes from Tehran, would be interrupted. This is a microcosm of Lebanon’s problems and an example of the state’s problematic relationship with Hezbollah. Expecting our corrupt political system to reform itself is too ambitious. But where are the deputies of the Baabda District, to which the airport land belongs? Where are the honorable deputies representing Beirut, who are seeing their country’s only international gateway being put at risk, but aren’t lifting a finger? Finding solutions isn’t difficult, provided that there is a will for compromise. Either the airport belongs to the state and is subject to state law, scrutiny, and management – or it is owned by a substate actor that has de-facto authority over it.

– Bashara Charbel

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Two Arab writers opining on Middle East issues write on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar unveiling as much a ‘clash of values’ as a clash of competing football teams


By Abdul Latif Al-Minawy

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, November 25

As I write these lines, Breel Embolo, a football (soccer) player on the Swiss national team, scored the winning goal for his team in its World Cup match against Cameroon. This might seem normal to the average reader, but those who are familiar with the player’s background will immediately understand the irony, since Embolo is Cameroonian by birth. One can only imagine how confused – and perhaps torn – the player felt when he scored the goal. Embolo couldn’t be happy or sad. The sadness on his face wasn’t the “ordinary” sadness one would expect from a professional football player who beats his former team. Rather, it was sadness over injustice – the injustice that forced him to leave Africa, abandon his homeland, and move to Switzerland. Few professional opportunities exist for people in Africa. Therefore, exceptionally talented Africans – be it athletes, musicians, artists, or scholars – look to Europe for a better future. At home, they will have to face issues like corruption and nepotism. Abroad, they will have a fair chance for development and growth. And while many talented Africans find themselves pursuing a professional career abroad, nowhere is this more heartbreaking to observe than in sports, where an African player may find himself playing against his own home country’s national team.

Football isn’t just a game. Rather, it is a microcosm of life.

Mixed Feelings. A muted celebration for Breel Embolo after scoring his first World Cup goal for Switzerland against his birth country Cameroon. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

The World Cup is an opportunity for countries to demonstrate their skill and power against others. In beating Cameroon on the playing field, Switzerland affirmed its position as a force to be reckoned with. It is a model for life, neither a continuous winner nor a continuous loser, Jürgen Klopp, the manager of Premier League club Liverpool answered when asked about his permanent smile even when he his team loses. He said:

It is because when my son was born I realized that football is not a matter of life or death. We do not save people’s lives.”

Football should not spread misfortune, hatred and misery. Football should be about joy and inspiration.  

Abdul Latif Al-Minawy


By Meshary Al-Dhaidi 

Alsharq Al-Awsat, London, November 23

The FIFA World Cup is not just the premier sporting event in the Western world, but it is also an occasion to promote Western values across the globe. For a long time, we’ve witnessed liberal values, which were once considered radical, assume the center stage of Western societies. I’m not talking about the normalization of homosexuality or same-sex marriage. I’m talking about how the entire concept of gender has been questioned. There is no more “male” and “female,” but a wide host of other gender identities that people can assume. Even young children are being indoctrinated and taught these ideas and values at school today. These values are being put to the test in the current FIFA World Cup games held in Qatar.

Clash of Values. Football federations who had planned to wear the ‘OneLove‘ armbands to make a statement against discrimination during the World Cup in Qatar were faced with “extreme blackmail” that led to dropping the planned action said German FA.(Photo Reuters)

The International Federation of Football Associations banned the wearing of gay symbols, badges and apparel during the games, including the “one love” badge. This angered some European teams, including Germany’s national team, whose players were filmed covering their mouths – as if they are silenced – ahead of their first match. The Germans lost that game to Japan, and some cynics commented on the score by showing a caricature of the German players with an image of a rainbow in their heads playing against the Japanese players, who had an image of a football in their minds. According to a BBC report, seven European national team captains were expected to wear the “one love” armband during the games. The German Football Association claimed that “depriving us of wearing the armband is like depriving us of speaking.” The only thing that FIFA allowed the captains of the teams was to wear the “no discrimination” badge throughout the tournament period. This is what Germany’s captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer did in the match against Japan. However, the truth is that the Western insolence doesn’t even reflect all the players on the Western teams. For example, the captain of the French national team, Hugo Lloris, announced that he would not wear the armband because he wanted to pay respect to his Qatari hosts. They might not like it, but Westerners visiting Qatar for the World Cup games may just discover that the universe doesn’t revolve around their own values. They are neither the source of truth, nor are they the ultimate manufacturers of noble values. Other societies, other peoples, and other countries might not agree with their liberal philosophies and worldviews. They may have their own beliefs, but those beliefs are far from universal. Perhaps a trip to Qatar is what it takes for them to understand this simple reality.

 – Meshary Al-Dhaidi 

*(Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

The Arab Voice – September 2022

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.


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.

This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a bulldozer working on a damaged runway of the Damascus International Airport, after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Damascus, Syria, June 12, 2022.

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


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.

The then Prince of Wales, (today King Charles lll) and then Duchess of Cornwall visiting Egypt in November 2021.

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.

In keeping with the saying “with everything bad comes something good as well,” while Britain looted India it also left a positive legacy.

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)

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Arab writers opining on Middle East issues, focus from Egypt being on the right trajectory to the danger of Syria fragmenting into autonomous regions and a hoping for a return of US warm relations with the Gulf



By Karam Gabr 

Akhbar el-Yom, Egypt, June 2

In May 2015, a group of 159 pro-Muslim Brotherhood clerics from across the Arab and Muslim world published the “Al-Kinana Call”, in which they accused the Egyptian government of being “criminal and murderous” and declared religious war on the Egyptian people. The signatories issued religious verdicts permitting the killing of innocent Egyptian civilians in the name of their goal of restoring Mohammed Morsi back to the presidency. This criminal gang was no different from the thugs of ISIS, the Houthis, and al-Qaida. They came from countries such as Pakistan, Libya, and Afghanistan – all of which have been ravaged by religious wars. These thugs wanted the fate of Egyptian women to be just like the fate of women found in their own failed societies. They were consumed by jealousy and bitterness after witnessing the bustling streets of Cairo come back to life, unlike their own destroyed capitals that have been wrecked by their wars.

Moving On. Seen here in 2020, President Sisi’s government wants Egyptians to stop regarding Tahrir Square as a place of revolution.( Khaled Desouki · AFP · Getty)

Thankfully, the Egyptian army stood guard and protected our country against these attacks. Its men didn’t fragment or crumble. Indeed, had it not been for the steadfastness of our great army, these mercenaries would have occupied Egypt’s palaces and mosques, plundered its bounties, and subjugated its women. But Egypt defied them and shattered their dreams of forming a caliphate. This month, June, marks the nine-year anniversary of the demonstrations that brought down Morsi’s regime. It was a day in which Egypt entered a new age; one in which a dark black cloud was lifted from upon us. Bleak memories still haunt all of us: the use of force against protestors, our squares being occupied by thugs, the violence and bloodshed in our streets. Yet we, the Egyptian people, prevailed.

We chose to look to the future. We managed to keep those evil forces away from our country and move forward as one.

– Karam Gabr 



By Riad Naasan Agha 

Al-Itihad, UAE, June 1

The announcement of the establishment of a safe zone in Syria – to which several million displaced Syrians will return – raises concerns and mixed feelings among Syrians.

They urgently need a safe territory to return to, after years of movement in search of safety. If such a safe zone is provided to them within their homeland, many of them will return to Syria without hesitation. However, there is genuine concern that this safe area will turn into a small statelet that motivates others to establish autonomous regions – thereby leading to further geographical, sectarian and ethnic division in Syria.

Future Uncertain. A Syrian refugee camp in north-west Iraq. Will these thousands of refugees ever return to Syria and if so to where in Syria and under what security arrangements?

The truth is that people have few hopes for a political resolution to the Syrian crisis following 11 years of suffering. Millions of Syrian refugees are likely to remain scattered around the world, living in tents and makeshift dwellings. A generation of hundreds of thousands of Syrian children and adolescents has grown up without schooling. Most of them have no future. While the fears of the refugees who are expected to return are centered around the safety mechanisms that would be implemented in order to protect them and provide them with basic necessities, international consensus has still not been reached. The United States and the European Union must be the ultimate guarantors for this. It’s also worth remembering that this safe zone is only a local and temporary solution, designed primarily for Syrian refugees located in Turkey. Our fathers and grandfathers lived through an era in which Syria was divided under the French Mandate. Their silver lining was the fact that they were all united as one against a foreign enemy – an occupier – from whom they sought independence. They worked to build a unified country where all segments of society can peacefully coexist. However, the current situation differs dramatically. The future of Syria seems more dangerous than its present. Syrian society is deeply divided and fractured. Sadly, no one knows what the future will bring for this war-torn country.

– Riad Naasan Agha 



By Rami Caliph Al-Ali

Okaz, Saudi Arabia, June 10

There has been increasing talk in the American capital about the necessity of returning warmth to US-Gulf relations, especially with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the loudest and clearest voice came from a paper presented to the Council on Foreign Relations, prepared by Steven Cook, a researcher specializing in international relations, and Martin Indyk, a former diplomat who worked in the Middle East. As of the writing of these lines, this paper has not been published but was referred to by Fareed Zakaria in an article published in The Washington Post. Regardless of the details of the Cook-Indyk paper, there is consensus among observers of Middle East politics that the policy pursued by the Biden Administration toward the Gulf has undermined American interests. The Gulf, with Saudi Arabia at its heart, is the key to the Middle East. If you try to marginalize it, you will practically marginalize your role and presence in the region, and this is what happened with the United States. As for Riyadh, we realize that relations with Washington were and still are strategic when they are based on clear foundations, which are those agreed upon by the founding King Abdulaziz Al-Saud with President Franklin Roosevelt. The relations were based on security, defense, and economic cooperation with full respect for the kingdom’s sovereignty and its location in the heart of the Islamic world, and noninterference in its internal affairs. But if Washington wants to turn against these foundations and play a paternalistic role vis-à-vis the kingdom, then it must expect that Riyadh will search for other allies. Therefore, it is a welcome change that Washington is reconsidering its stance. This will require a frank and honest dialogue between Washington and Riyadh, which will focus on two things.

Great Expectations. Seen here visiting Riyadh when he was vice-president in 2011, there is much hope of restoring US warm relations when as President, Biden visits  his Middle East allies amid strains.

The first aspect is respecting the sovereignty of Gulf states and avoiding arrogant and patronizing discourse toward its leaders. The second aspect, which is no less important, is finding a common vision surrounding the region’s most burning issues, starting with the Iranian nuclear file and the need to involve the countries of the region in the talks with Iran. 

Rami Caliph Al-Ali

*(translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).