Saudi Editor to Arab World: Be Like Europe, Stop Living in Past

Saudi Arabia's Shura Council, which advises the cabinet, approved a draft law which would introduce a prison term of up to five years and a penalty of 300,000 riyals for sexual harassment, weeks before the decades-long ban on women driving is lifted
AFP/FAYEZ NURELDINE

TEL AVIV – The editor of a major Arabic-language paper has urged the Arab world to stop clinging to a past that no longer exists and start learning from Europe, which gave up on violence and war in favor of peace and modernity. 

In an article titled “Rescue Your Descendants, Don’t Avenge Your Ancestors” in the Saudi London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, the paper’s editor-in-chief Ghassan Charbel asks why there exists no Arab city with a robust economy, modern infrastructure, and good education.

Charbel tells young Arabs that army generals are no longer the ones determining the future of a nation. Today, he says, “your fate is in the hands of the generals of Silicon Valley — Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and others,” a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) states.

He continues by chiding Arabs for not realizing that they too are part of a global village. Refusing to integrate into that village “means that you become a burden to the world.”

According to Charbel, the Middle East is experiencing what Europe went through following the world wars. Europe made mistakes and learned from them, primarily the futility of trying to redraw borders by erasing other nations.

Europe saw sights it did not expect to see. It saw Adolph Hitler display his arrogance on the Champs Elysees, after it saw Europeans thronging [to Spain] and dividing themselves among the barricades of the Spanish Civil War. [It] saw convoys of immigrants and displaced people, scorched neighborhoods, and capital cities full of fear and disorder; it saw from up close repression, oppression, and horror, and the tearing asunder of countries and families. The old continent [of Europe] was the arena of the spark of two world wars, but the cannon eventually fell silent, and from the piles of corpses and the rivers of blood the European had to reach a decision about what would help him ensure that there would be no repeat of this tragedy. He had to decide whether to utilize the armistice to prepare for a new war, or to arrange conditions for coexistence. Coexistence does not neutralize the disputes, but it prohibits the use of war as a means of solving them.

Europe, he says, waged wars for any reason before realizing the future would never be built by bloodshed.

“Europe was submerged in blood, tears, and piles [of corpses], and was full of widows, orphans, and unemployed. Its cities were badly damaged and its economies had collapsed. The overwhelming sense was that Europe had learned nothing from the first world war, and had again descended into hell,” Charbel writes.

However, after the Second World War, European leaders denounced violence and “chose stability, rehabilitation, and coexistence, for the continent and within its countries.”

“[Y]our neighbor was no longer your enemy, but your partner, and together you strove to expand the areas of cooperation. … This is a solution of competition instead of war, cooperation instead of clashes.”

He concludes with a word of warning to the Arab world: “Joining the future saves your history from oblivion, and makes it into fuel for the train of progress. Do not delay and do not hesitate; this is your battle, and you must rescue your descendants, not avenge your ancestors.”

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