Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

Media reflect Arab rifts over Gaza

Pan Arab meeting in Doha
The Doha gathering is opposed by a number of countries.

Media in the Arab world reflect deep differences among Arab leaders on the diplomatic way forward on the Gaza conflict.

The secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Musa, has spoken of what he called "the great chaos" in Arab ranks over the situation in Gaza.

He made the comment in Kuwait, where a meeting of Arab foreign ministers on Friday was overshadowed by another pan-Arab meeting on Gaza, called by neighbouring Qatar.

The gathering in Doha is opposed by a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who believe it could scupper Egyptian efforts to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas.

Qatar's emir, Shaykh Hamad Bin-Khalifah al-Thani, has said the purpose of the summit is not to jeopardise truce efforts but to adopt a unified Arab position on Israel's offensive.

'Media feuding'

Saudi, Egyptian and Qatari newspapers published on Friday were at loggerheads over the rival meetings.

"Egypt and Saudi Arabia believe that holding the Qatari summit - which will increase media feuding without coming up with a unified result - will weaken the Arab position further," said an editorial in Saudi daily al-Watan.

"It is astonishing that Qatar insists on calling this summit given that all the evidence shows that it will deepen Arab division and lead to failure in facing the disaster, " wrote Jalal Duwaydar in a commentary published in Egypt's al-Akhbar.

But Qatari newspapers were having none of it.

"The emergency Arab summit called by the cherished Emir [of Qatar] is not an end, but a means to save the Palestinian people from the holocaust and the systematic genocide war," said an editorial in Qatar's al-Rayah.

"We cannot understand the real reasons behind attempts to thwart an Arab summit devoted to discussing the situation in the Gaza Strip... Maybe those who sought to thwart the Doha summit wanted to convey a message to the effect that they do not support Hamas. But the lava that falls on Palestinians' heads does not differentiate between Hamas members and others," wrote Mazin Hammad in a commentary in Qatar's al-Watan.

'Fiercer battle than Gaza'

Syrian papers were also critical of the countries that reject the Doha summit.

An editorial in government-owned al-Thawrah did not see "any justification for creating obstacles" and said it was "neither acceptable nor conceivable that the summit be tampered with in this way."

Government-owned daily Tishrin poured scorn on Arab leaders who wanted to discuss Gaza on the sidelines of the scheduled Arab economic summit in Kuwait next week, "as if Gaza was a marginal, simple, ordinary, and worthless issue, not a sharp turning point in our modern history and one that would announce a new history for the region."

The deep split in Arab ranks led Abd-al-Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of pan Arab paper al-Quds al-Arabi, to conclude that "Arab capital cities are currently facing a fiercer battle than the one raging in Gaza. The aim of this battle is to prevent the convening of an emergency summit in Doha."

TV coverage

The differences among Arab states were also reflected, although to a less obvious extent than in the press, in pan-Arab TV coverage during the week.

Saudi-funded al-Arabiya on Thursday quoted the Saudi foreign minister as saying that the summit proposed by Doha had not achieved the necessary quorum to convene. It also interviewed the Kuwaiti foreign minister who said that Gaza would be "at the heart of discussions" during the Kuwait economic summit on 19 January.

In contrast, Doha-based al-Jazeera TV gave the gathering prominence as a "summit with the participation of a number of Arab presidents and leaders". Its correspondent said the meeting would be attended by Iranian President Ahmadinehad and a "high profile Turkish delegation", in addition to the leaders of Lebanon, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Mauritania and Algeria amongst others.

Earlier in the week, al-Jazeera and Syrian TV gave prominence to an address by the Qatari emir, who appeared dismayed by the failure to convince Arab leaders to hold a summit, and said it was "shameful" to discuss Gaza "on the margins" of Kuwait's Arab economic summit.

'Conniving with Israel'

Commentators in a number of papers threw up their hands in despair at the continuing inability of Arab leaders to unite in the face of the Israeli offensive.

"Holding three rival Arab rival summits is a guaranteed way to demonstrate Arab division and support for foreign agendas as the real forces operating in the region, " wrote Fahd al-Fanik in Jordan's al-Ray.

"Apparently the Israeli massacre that has been going on for 20 days has failed to unite Arab political leaders and make them shoulder their responsibilities," said an editorial in Egypt's al-Jumhuriyah.

Writing in Jordan's Al-Ghad, commentator Samih al-Ma'aytah said that a summit "without Saudi Arabia and Egypt and without high-level representation in these deteriorating Arab conditions... will provide nothing for Gaza's people, who are living under the threat of death".

"We call for an effective diplomatic action by Arabs," urged an editorial in pan-Arab paper al-Arab al-Alamiyah. "We want to remind the world about the many resolutions issued by international organizations for the benefit of Palestinians and demand they be implemented to prevent the repetition of massacres against these defenceless people."

As the arguments raged, one commentator pointed out that what the Palestinians really needed was not summits and more talk, but Arab action.

"Those who want to act do not need to call for an emergency Arab League summit. They should only take effective steps...and exonerate themselves from accusations of conniving with Israel in this massacre," wrote Abd-al-Bari Atwan in pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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