Arabs find themselves envious when they encounter the developed world. A friend of mine sought a better life in London after having had enough with reign of oppression back home. He purchased a house in his wait for the war to end.
One day he was disturbed by a tree in his small garden. He made the decision to take it down. He then asked his native neighbor if he knew a worker who could do the job.
The neighbor laughed and explained that he has no right to cut down trees even if they are rooted within private property. “You must first apply to the local council and convince him of the reasons,” the neighbor told my friend.
“The law here protects trees– it is necessary to get the council’s approval– and then comes the chopping,” he went on saying.
My friend was short to stunned, he had come from a world in which a city could be leveled or have its people uprooted without a flicker on an eye. A citizen can be taken away without the right for families, friends or relatives to demand for an explanation.
In the United Kingdom the law protects trees, while the memory of my friend’s cousin lingers of him returning with plied nails, bloodied gums and fallen teeth after being summoned to a mysterious interrogation.
A tree in London enjoys more rights than a citizen in countries where torture and suffering has become the status quo. Nevertheless, jealousy is not a virtue and rather only fosters feelings of hatred and bitterness.
But when reading in-between the lines and closely reviewing the Middle East, Arabs discovered that in recent years, Israel had achieved a series of victories without firing a bulletGhassan Charbel
But for Arabs to feel envious is not inexplicable or odd. Envy can also become a constant concern. When an Arab visits a museum in a developed country a thought occurs to him as he wonders what fate did legacies and historical artifacts in Iraq, Syria and other Arab countries face.
As Vienna nourishes and preserves its trees, bulldozers raze whole natural landscapes in Lebanon. While Oslo continues to pay attention to perfecting its healthcare plans and sustaining a sanitary environment, sewage in Arab countries flow without accountability.
Arabs sometimes try to mitigate the disappointment, seek justifications for this wide gap separating them from the developed world. We now stand at a very decisive and unique time in history.
Developed countries now reap the fruits of struggles and major events that were witnessed by The Old Continent– the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, the Renaissance, the separation of church and state, German philosophy, and the ever-changing revolution of women’s rights all of which are factors who helped shape the developed world today.
Europeans have experienced all sorts of wars that destroyed the continent and the world along with it. Nevertheless they finally arrived at a constructive conclusion.
Despite the horrendous account that Adolf Hitler left behind, Germany now thrives under Angela Merkel’s chairmanship and the institutions. Fallen empires have become nothing more than shelves at museums and written lines in history books. Border became bridges, not walls.
Communities eventually recognized the right to difference, and minorities are no longer viewed as a threat to be neutralized. The constitution protects variety and prevents the majority from erasing it.
These countries no longer search for leaders who speak in the language of bloodshed. Instead, they are looking for governments that are concerned with fighting unemployment, developing the economy, encouraging investment, taking care of the environment and tackling climate change. All of which leaves the visiting Arab is envious.
The Modi visit
Setting aside trees and museums aside, there is something worse. Arabs took close note to Benjamin Netanyahu freeing up his day to attend his visiting guest, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
That was the first time a sitting Indian prime minister visits Israel. What is even more remarkable is that the Modi did not feel the need to visit the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. A move that saw to Israel’s liking.
It is worth remembering that India was a pioneer in understanding the aspirations of the people of Palestinian and did not hesitate to take their side in international arenas.
Arabs kept a close eye to each step of the visit, especially after the warm welcome Modi received in Israel and which exceeded in hospitality that which was afforded United States President Donald Trump.
Modi then said that true cooperation between Israel and India would change the face of the world. Netanyahu also said that Israel welcomed Modi in a manner befitting a president of leading the world’s largest democracy, and the only democratic state in the Middle East.
What turned around heads is that Modi viewed Israel as a prevalent beacon in technology and him clearly speaking of his country’s tremendous need to benefit from Israel’s capabilities in this field.
Israel’s signature weapons
The visit resulted in the signing of an agreement between Netanyahu and Modi, under which India will secure its very own Israel’s signature Iron Dome Weapon System worth two billion dollars. Memorandums of understanding were also signed on establishing an Indian-Israeli fund for innovation in research and development in the domain of technology.
Other agreements included water and agricultural development in India, as well as a partnership in economic projects in Africa and third world countries.
Saying that Modi belongs to a hard-line Hindu nationalist movement or that the influence of rising “jihadist” terrorism is not enough to elaborate on Modi being swayed into a stronger relationship with Israel.
What is more dangerous is that a country the size of Israel can offer the Indian army such a large-scale weapons deal, which goes beyond its previous role in developing ex-Soviet and Russian weapons owned by India. Ever more threatening is that Israel now has managed to develop an advanced strategic, military, security and economic relationship with a country the size of and with geopolitical significance of India.
Arabs were disturbed by the arrogance which characterized Netanyahu’s speeches during Modi’s visit. But when reading in-between the lines and closely reviewing the Middle East, Arabs discovered that in recent years, Israel had achieved a series of victories without firing a bullet.
States, armies and economies around the occupying state have eroded to its benefit. Waves of extremism in the Arab world have caused untold calamities, creating a long bullet-list of issues and conflicts in which the Palestinian cause is a mere one of many.
This time Arabs did not feel envy alone, but sensed utter defeat for those who for failing to catch up with the developing world.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Ghassan Charbel is the Editor-in-Chief of London-based Al Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. Ghassan's Twitter handle is @GhasanCharbel.