Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why Can't the Arabs Be More Like the Jews?

'Tis a real puzzlement: why, asks Palestinian journalist/editor Rami Khouri, is the Arab world such a basket case?:
...So, looking around the region, we find Arab states that can be described as authoritarian, weak, strong or fragile. We also have broken states (Somalia), states that disappeared and/or returned (Kuwait, South Yemen), security-dominated states (Tunisia, Syria, formerly Baathist Iraq), erratic states (Libya), pirate states (Somalia), vulnerable states (Lebanon, Palestine), privatized states in the hands of small ruling elites (most Arab states), family states that carry a family’s name (Saudi Arabia, Jordan), tribal states (Yemen, Oman), mini-states (Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain), occupied states (Palestine, Iraq to an extent) and various degrees of client and proxy states, rogue states, gangster states and others that defy description.
The inability of most states outside the oil producers to provide for their people’s material needs, and the broad weakness of political, democratic and human rights in all Arab states, has seen a wide range of non-state actors emerge in society to offer citizens security, services, identity and representation, including religious, tribal, nationalist, corporate, civil-society and other kinds of groups. The central state now often negotiates relationships with these forces in society, rather than only providing the overarching system of order and identity within which multiple actors engage one another and the outside world.
One hates to point out the obvious (well, not really), but the one bright light in the region isn't Arab--it's Jewish. Perhaps if the Arab States could be more like the Jewish one--free, open, democratic--and weren't so obsessed with the Jewish one, a most pointless and self-destructive obsession, they could break through their stultification and finally move ahead.

Update: "A Hymn to Them," from that famous musical My Kafir Lady:

Why can't the Arabs be more like the Jews?
Jews are creative, so thoroughly free;
Consistenly shine intellectually;
Who, when you demonize them,
Don't kick up a fuss.
Why can't the Arabs be like us?

Why does ev'ryone do what the others do?
Can't an Arab learn to use his head?
Why do they do ev'rything their brothers do?
Why don't they act more like, well, Zionists instead?

Why can't the Arabs take after the Jews?
Jews are "diverse," "non-homogenous," too.
So eager to share their ideas with you.
Would Jews pack plastics that explode into their panties?
(Of course not!)
Would they be livid 'bout a rude Muhammad quip?
Would they freak out and act like angry vigilantes?
Well, why can't the Arabs get a grip?...

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