by Benjamin Kerstein
Over the past several months, a series of Arab commentators have sought to explain why Israel appears so far ahead of the Arab world in politics, economics, and military power.
According to translations published on Thursday by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the general consensus was that Israeli democracy gives the country this strength. In particular, the emphasis on the rule of law, the fight against corruption, and the importance of education.
Although the commentators at times engaged in racist rhetoric and smeared Israel as an “apartheid” state, they nonetheless acknowledged that Arab nations have failed in their basic responsibilities to their citizens, whereas Israel has not.
Reda Abd Al-Salam, the former governor of Egypt’s Al-Sharqiya province and a lecturer at Mansoura University in Egypt, noted, “The Arab and Muslim peoples live under regimes that for decades have engaged not in developing their peoples and establishing themselves in economy, society, science, and democracy, but in establishing their [own] rule.”
“During this time,” he continued, “those we called ‘the sons of apes and pigs’ [i.e. the Jews] engaged in real building. They focused on education, health, economy, and technology, and of course on the democratic process. So often we have heard of the imprisonment of a president or prime minister in Israel.”
“What [heights] have the sons of apes and pigs reached,” he lamented, “and where is Egypt, the greatest Arab country, mired? … Have we education, health services, or social justice?”
“If only we would stop lying to ourselves,” Al-Salam stated.
To catch up with Israel, he asserted, “Education, education, and again education is our first problem.” What Egypt needs, he said, is “universities to spread enlightenment and bring us out of our ignorance and darkness into the light of science and industry.”
Jordanian politician Rahil Ghorayba also weighed in on the question. Referring to the ongoing investigations of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ghorayba stated, “Investigating a prime minister is one of the manifestations of justice in any country — even an enemy country — that shows strength, not weakness. … Israeli society has an ability that Arab societies do not. It is to easily prosecute officials and influential figures, without causing an uproar and without this being out of the ordinary or some kind of miracle.”
“In modern Arab history,” he continued, “there is no [case] of a trial or investigation of this kind of a leader or influential figure. Therefore, it can be said frankly that this is a highly significant weak point in the Arab homeland, and that there is no chance of revival and advancement of Arab society until we reach a stage where it will have the capability to prosecute officials who embezzled state and public funds without any oversight, who caused economic collapse, and who obstructed the Arab peoples’ [ability] to regain their power and sovereignty over their resources and to protect them.”
Palestinian writer Suhail Kiwan also pointed to the strength of the Israeli legal system, saying it is “the final arbiter, because it remains an independent institution, despite all that is said and that we say against the racist apartheid anti-Arab Zionist regime.”
“Indeed,” he went on to say, “this regime is criminal, murderous, and barbaric against the Arabs, but with respect to the Jewish citizens, it is still very good, and it cannot be compared to the regimes that murder Arabs because they are Arabs, wiping out civilians for the sake of the interests of the homeland, and indiscriminately oppressing people and the homeland.”
The results of Arab failure to match Israel in this regard, Kiwan stated, are not pretty, “for it leads us to the situation in which my nation is mired, to our wretchedness. I do not enjoy self-flagellation, but that is the painful truth — they [in Israel] surpass us in managing their affairs and identifying their interests.”
“There is much corruption in Israel,” he pointed out, but “a judicial system that can take the corrupt to task is one of the most important secrets of Israel’s power — not the advanced technology, the advanced aircraft, the sizeable army, or the compulsory [military] service for young Jewish men and women, but the capability of the regime itself to identify and rectify flaws.”
Lebanese writer Abd Al-Rahman Abd Al-Mulla Al-Salah took a wider view of the issue, saying, “Israel is stable, and despite all its racism, it is a democracy for the Jews within it. Whether we like it or not, Israel is a country of institutions, law, and a constitution, in which the transfer of power is carried out [in an organized fashion].”
Decrying the lack of democracy in the Arab world, Al-Salah stated, “Since [Israel’s] establishment in 1948, it has held 19 elections, which played a very important role in its political development … while in the Arab world, the presidential and parliamentary elections are a mere formality.”