The Middle East Media Research Institute translates a recent article by Saudi columnist Khalaf Al-Harbi, published in the Saudi government daily Okaz, arguing that the number of Arabs Ariel Sharon “killed is nowhere near that of those who died at the hands of Arab rulers, especially since the onset of the Arab Spring.”
I made a related point in “The Arab Myth of Ariel Sharon” in this week’s issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD. Considering the Arab media’s assessments of Sharon published after his death January 11, I noted that many of them saw the Israeli leader as “evil incarnate.” Worse yet, with some Arab commentators “describing a genealogy that begins with the Israeli leader” and culminates with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, they were “offering an excuse for Arab pathology.”
“It’s as if the Arabs can’t even own their violence,” Tony Badran, a Beirut-born research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who lived through Lebanon’s civil war, told me. “They portray their violence as somehow an imitation of, or as emanating from, a standard set by Sharon. This is a political culture that has produced, among others, the Assads, Sr. and Jr., Saddam Hussein, Omar Bashir, and Muammar Qaddafi. To make Sharon the avatar of Middle East butchery is absurd.”
The thrust of Harbi’s article is to make Arabs account for their own violence. "Had Sharon been placed in the same cage as Arab criminals,” writes Harbi, “the judges would have seen that the number of victims killed in the massacres he carried out throughout his long military and political history does not come close to the number of victims killed in [even one] nonviolent protest that one of the criminal Arab [rulers] caged beside him had ordered to disperse.”
One Arab despot that comes in for special mention is Assad—which is to say that while this article lays bare an important home truth, the Saudi press rarely passes up the opportunity now to go after Assad and his villainous regime.
John Kerry’s opening statement today at the Geneva II conference aimed at ending the nearly three-year-long Syrian civil war demanded Assad’s removal. "There is no way…that the man who led the brutal response to his own people could regain the legitimacy to govern," said Kerry. His Syrian counterpart, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, rejected Kerry’s statement and accused the United States of supporting rebel units affiliated with al-Qaeda. "I have the right to give the Syrian version to this forum,” said Moallem, in a long rambling speech that U.N. secretary feneral Ban Ki-Moon tried to cut short. No, Moallem told Moon defiantly, proudly representing a regime responsible now for as many as 130,000 deaths—“This is Syria.”