War and peace in the Middle East

Friday 11/12/2015
Graffiti under a bridge in downtown Beirut, Lebanon

The sheer insanity of war seems to have spread like a malignant cancer across North Africa and the Middle East. Everywhere you look war and its by-products — hate, violence and fear — have never been so present as they are today in the Arab world.
From the tip of the Arabian pen­insula to the valleys of the Two Riv­ers, from the cedars of Lebanon to the plains of Anatolia and from the pyramids of Egypt stretching across the deserts to the string of pleas­ant fertile Mediterranean cities that dot the coast of North Africa, tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and millions rendered homeless.
The refugee crisis stretching from the Mid­dle East into Europe and even beyond is one of the world’s most serious mass migration of peoples across borders and continents since World War II.
There is no immediate solution to the refugee cri­sis, there is no magic wand that will fix everything immediately assuming that the concerned powers agree on an agenda. It will take years, if ever, to right all the wrongs committed in this last year alone.
The Christmas season, being the time of unbridled dreams, one should imagine if only for a brief moment, how different the region would be and how much it would prosper and develop and just how much the people would benefit if and when peace were to replace war.
For the moment, it is only a distant dream but dreams can come true when there is human will.
If the peoples of the Middl East manage to overcome the divides separating them and learn to curb the fears they have of each other’s differences, the outlook of the re­gion would not be quite the same.
First, money currently spent on buying arms could be used to ad­vance education and welfare, two fields in which the region lags.
Second, youth in the region would have dreams of better lives at home. The drive to migrate at any cost would certainly slow down if not stop altogether.
Third, destructive mindsets would cease being the trademark of the MENA region. The Arab world could, as it did in the Mid­dle Ages, start contributing to the advancement of thought, science, technology and medicine. There is no reason why the Arab and Muslim world cannot contribute greatly to such developments the way it did during the days of Avi­cenna and Averroes.
Fourth, consider how the tour­ist industry is hurting more than ever after terrorist attacks in Tunis and Egypt. Consider the amount of foreign currency that would be pumped into the countries and the number of jobs created in the tour­ism industry and offshoots if there were no terror threat.
Religious tourism could skyrock­et if pilgrims of all religions were able to travel unhindered around the region to visit the holy cities in the Palestinian territories, Israel, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia without fear of arrest or kidnapping or of being caught up in political violence.
Fifth, industrial zones could be created in parts of the Middle East with large populations where an inexpensive and capable labour force could be found. Only indus­try can create the tens of thou­sands of jobs needed to stem youth unemployment.
Think how prosperous the region could be if the money invested by Saudi and Qatari donations as well as by Western nations and private corporations — both official and from private entities — would go to helping in the causes of develop­ment, welfare and progress.
This, of course, is all utopic under the current circumstances and hardly likely to be in the offing in the near future. Though one can still dream and hope for a miracle. It is nearly Christmas after all.

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