Home > General Policy, Israel-Palestine > Already losing steam in the Arab world?

Already losing steam in the Arab world?

In Sunday’s New York Times, Egyptian novelist Alaa al Aswany writes that by failing to speak up on the situation in Gaza is causing attrition to President Obama’s political capital in the Middle East.

While the Western media–and perhaps this venue included–were labeling Obama’s bold intiative in reaching out to Arabs and Muslims by speaking with Al Arabiya, Aswany says the reaction in Cairo was… well, muted at best:

But while most of my Egyptian friends knew about the interview, by then they were so frustrated by Mr. Obama’s silence that they weren’t particularly interested in watching it. I didn’t see it myself, but I went back and read the transcript. Again, his elegant words did not challenge America’s support of Israel, right or wrong, or its alliances with Arab dictators in the interest of pragmatism.

Aswany says all is not lost, but he points to a central problem in American policy in the Middle East. No matter how much more “pro-Palestine” an American president may be, it’s hard to see any president since perhaps Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 as really taking a hard line against any Israeli action–including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. While your view on whether that’s right, or good for American interests, will vary according to political beliefs, it becomes more and more apparent that we’re unlikely to see an American leader who will really bring the sort of different perspective that many Arabs would see as a true leveling of the playinf field.

In other business, Aswany makes an offhand comment that illuminates the way young Egyptians are taking advantage of the blogosphere to express their views in a society that often doesn’t provide a good forum for public discourse:

I then enlisted the help of my two teenage daughters, May and Nada, to guide me through the world of Egyptian blogs, where young Egyptian men and women can express themselves with relative freedom.

–David Graham, Trinity ’09 and editor

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