I thank my friend Maikel Nabil for spotlighting the Saudi author Abdulateef al Mulhim in his facebook page. I read and enjoyed many of Mr. Al Mulhim’s articles which address the complex issues regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. In addition, Mr. Al Mulhim’s compassionate attitude toward Israel and the Jews in general is heart-warming and pleasantly surprising to me. It is an unexpected contrast to the vicious anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments that I have come to expect from the Wahhabi Saudi regime and the Saudi people in general.
In this article, he shows how the Arab wars against Israel have represented an enormous waste in lives and military spending for the Arab world. He writes,”The Arab world wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of innocent lives fighting Israel….The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people.” He correctly notes that the worst atrocities in the Arab world, such as the Assad regime’s war on the Syrian people and the starvation of Yemeni children, are the fault of the Arab regimes and not Israel and the Jews.
I could not agree more, and I also think the Arab dictators rely upon external enemies in order to justify their repression of their own people. Thus, the Arab world would benefit enormously from ending the conflict with the Jews. Peace would allow the Arabs to focus on their internal challenges in terms of poverty, domestic violence, the absence of democratic freedoms, and lack of education and health care. Peace would make it harder for Arab dictators to remain in power and would open up more space for the development of civil society and a free press.
In another article, he says that the Arab war against Israel and the Jews is responsible for much of the internal political instability and political repression inside the Arab world. For instance, the militarist regime in Egypt might not have come to power and subjected the Egyptian people to six decades of miserable political repression if not for the Arabs’ insistence on waging war on Israel. Also he says perhaps the Iraqi people might have been spared Saddam’s genocidal rule, that cost the lives of 300,000 Shi’ites and 100,000 Kurds, if not for this conflict.
Overall his goal is to promote areas of common ground and co-existence between Muslims and Jews. He spotlights the role of Muslims who rescued Jews during the Holocaust in an article where he also expresses compassion and empathy for Jewish suffering in the Holocaust. Similarly, I also agree with his view that Arabs could learn a lot about Jewish history and worldviews by watching Fiddler on the Roof.
However, he also expresses a naive faith in the universal value of negotiations. His suggestion that Israel should sit down at the negotiating table with Hamas is naive at best and harmful at worst. Hamas is a radical Islamist terrorist group which is firmly committed to the destruction of Israel and the Jews. Thus the idea of negotiating with Hamas is a non-starter for Israel and the Jews under any conditions.
Similarly, I also cringed when reading his article about the visit of Israeli Jewish musician Daniel Barenboim to perform in Qatar. Barenboim has clearly indicated through his words and actions that his sympathy lies with the Palestinian Arabs and not with Israel and the Jews. For this reason I do not share Mr. Al Mulhim’s enthusiasm for Barenboim’s visit to Qatar.
But al Mulhim’s articles represent an important Saudi voice for peace and a positive Saudi contribution to the internal debate among Arab democrats. He presents a useful and insightful perspective on the ways that the Arab war on Israel and the Jews have distorted internal Arab political dynamics and produced catastrophic suffering for the Egyptian and Iraqi peoples. I hope that more Saudis join the debate on ways to promote peace with Israel and the Jews and share their analysis of the impact of the Arab war on Israel and the Jews on internal Arab politics.