This is from an editorial (“Arabs are not always victims!”, July 23) in the Palestinian Al-ayyam publication, translated from Arabic by Mike Husseini of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP):
Have the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza, committed crimes that are punishable under international law?
And does the lack of indictments against American and Israeli officials for their war crimes by the International Criminal Court detract from its right to indict Sudanese officials for committing war crimes in Darfur?
… Let us, at least temporarily, put the Americans and Israelis aside. The question is: Has the Sudanese regime committed war crimes in Darfur or not? And why do we deny the International Criminal Court lawsuit, the reports of human rights organizations, and what we see with our own eyes, but believe what the Sudanese rulers say?
Personally, I think that the International Criminal Court is more honest than the rulers and judicial system of Sudan, and I think that they must pay for their crimes in Darfur. I also think that bringing them to justice, or raising a political and legal uproar over the issue, will deter other rulers in the Arab world from committing additional crimes against their people.
This is precisely the point that explains why centers of Arab political power are now worried, and why they have shown solidarity with the rulers in Khartoum. After all, the Arab peoples are ruled by armies and intelligence services, and human rights violations in the Arab world are considered fairly routine and do not create any anxiety in ruling circles unless they feel frightened of scandal or possible punishment. Therefore, the solidarity of Arab leaders with those in Khartoum has the aura of self-defense. All the rhetoric about “conspiracies against the nation,” “dignity,” and “sovereignty” is a crude attempt to hide behind nationalist sentiments.
But what is much more important, and what deserves contemplation and reflection, are questions like “Do human right violations and crimes punishable by law command the attention of public opinion in the Arab world?”
Yes, and no.
It is “yes” when crimes are committed by Israelis and Americans, because this validates harming them and violating their rights and dignity.
It is “no” when they are committed by the ruling regimes, or by criminal fundamentalist and rejectionist groups. And this indicates the existence of double-standards, an imbalance in values, and the continuation of an attitude of victimization.
Let us take what happened in Guantanamo and Darfur as illustrative examples.
News about Guantanamo occupies center stage in the Arab media, and Arab satellite channels pay thousands of dollars to obtain, at a great distance, the footage of metal bars and men moving behind them. Arab commentators employ every rhetorical technique to remonstrate against the violations that are committed there. And that is fine, because it is true and important.
But where is the news from Darfur? …
The difference between Guantanamo and Darfur is that the first reaffirms a sense of victimization, while the latter incites Arabs to look at the man in the mirror, something that they don’t like to do. And this, among other things, demonstrates a prevailing political culture in the Arab world of selectivity, impurity and imbalance of values. … Click to the ATFP Web site for the full article.