Middle East

Chirac for President...of the Arab League

Imad al-Din Husayn, Al-Bayan (government-owned), Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 14, 2003

French President Jacques Chirac
French President Jacques Chirac addresses the press after the after a Feb. 17, 2003, emergency summit on Iraq. Chirac rebuked future members of the European Union for siding with the United States, saying they "should have kept quiet" (Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP).
In a Feb.11 interview in [the London-based, Palestinian newspaper] Al-Quds al-Arabi, an Arab citizen of France suggested—sarcastically or despairingly—that the French President Jacques Chirac should be elected as President of the Arab League. I laughed at first, but immediately felt as if a poisoned blade had been sunk into my heart. I wondered, “Has our self-contempt reached a new low?”

But despite my personal pain, I began to think of the possible advantages of this suggestion. I came to the conclusion that installing Chirac as president of the Arab League could bring about a solution to our problems, considering the level to which our daily lives have sunk in recent times. This sarcastic suggestion just might be the cure for what ails us.

If things were to get any worse—God forbid—and we were forced elect Chirac to lead the Arab world, I would begin by proposing to our new Arab President Chirac a list of ideas that would assist in his surmounting the arduous tasks before him and in achieving complete Arab unity from the [Atlantic] Ocean to the [Persian] Gulf. This miracle would be wrought by the hands of our new “Saladin al-Chirac,” who would not remain idle. He would naturally demand that his powers of office be extensive and effective because he would not be content just to sit in a pretty office and look at the waters of the Nile River—unlike some other Arab politicians we know [i.e., representatives to the Arab League, which is headquartered in Cairo].

The first thing I would suggest Chirac do is to convince German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to leave his current post and escape the frigid climate of his country in order to be appointed temporarily as Prime Minister of the Arabs. This because Schröder has demonstrated during his time in office, especially since the beginning of the American threats on Iraq, that his stance for “Arabism” [a program calling for promotion of Arab unity and rights] has been more Arabist by a billion times than most Arab authorities’. The German leader has held a position based on principle, even maintaining his stance during this intense time and despite the crippling American diplomatic attacks that have often reached the point of contempt and insolence.

The second proposal I would present to our beloved President Chirac would be the appointment of Jean-Louis Michel, currently Belgium’s Foreign Minister, as foreign minister for the newly united Arab nations. It would be a difficult and unique position because of the diversity among Arabs. His posting to this position would essentially be a continuation of his current activities and statements on behalf of his country during the current Iraqi crisis. He has intrepidly challenged every American initiative, especially those that tried to bully the nations of Europe and NATO to rally behind the rush of American aggression. Furthermore, he has been forced to defend bravely the fact that his nation is the only one in the world that dared to attempt legal prosecution of the murdering Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with the charge of perpetrating crimes against humanity [for his involvement in the massacres of Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Phalangist militias during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in September 1982].

My third suggestion would be that Chirac should appoint the current speaker of the Russian Parliament, Gennady Seleznev, as speaker of the Parliament of Arabs. He would preside over Parliament during our long-hoped-for age of unity. Seleznev is an example to the majority of the Russian representatives in the Duma, who certify on a daily basis the refusal of the Russian people to support aggression against Iraq. His politics have been so brilliant that he has outmaneuvered any possible change of mind by the Russian leadership or attempts to kowtow to American threats. He called for a vote on a resolution requiring the Russian government not to participate in the war on Iraq. He has tried numerous other means to frustrate efforts to support war.

My fourth proposal would be that “Saladin al-Chirac” should try to convince the [South African] leader Nelson Mandela to supervise the struggle for human rights and democracy in the Greater Arab Nation. He could do so with the proviso that he also fulfill his duties by reorganizing our “Arab Revolutionary Cadres” so that they could discern the true struggle and expect real progress through energetic, result-oriented projects…They must realize they will not succeed by holding meetings in sumptuous hotels, by delivering speeches, or by penning newspaper columns.

Of course there are many other names from numerous non-Arab countries that we could suggest to President Chirac for membership in our new Arab League. There are great politicians who would greatly enhance the ideal qualities of Arabism, such as the British Member of Parliament George Galloway, Cuban President Fidel Castro, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Muhammad.

Why stop at politicians? There are also novelists, artists, and other cultural icons from numerous nations abroad who have defended our Arab rights. It would certainly be possible for Chirac to allocate room for them in our new Arab League so they could put themselves in the service of our causes.

Naturally, the new president would face various problems, but he would face them undaunted. In an attempt to revive the unified Arab will, he would focus on the rebirth of the economy, such as preventing the decline of both the Egyptian and Sudanese currencies, and spreading democracy and human rights. Chirac would solve our problems—which have been called “easy,” and “trifles”—by harnessing Arabs’ oft-touted weapons of “patience and brainpower.”

But Chirac would also face many dangerous problems as the new president of the Arab League. These would manifest themselves in the following questions: Would the new headquarters be in the current building of the Arab League in Tahrir Square in Cairo, or moved to the Elysées? And which language would the president speak? French? Or is it imperative that he learn Arabic in all its numerous local dialects? How would Chirac forge cooperation among our diverse Greater Arab Nation, including the ravenous hostage-takers in the rugged mountains of Yemen, the vengeance-seekers of Upper Egypt, our [Druze] brothers of the Hauran mountain range in Syria, the people of Tafilah in Jordan, and the Hebronites in Palestine?

Finally, all joking aside—despite the fact that even an intelligent Arab finds it hard to tell the difference between comedy and seriousness nowadays—we must realize that the French position (or German, or Belgian, or Russian, or any other notable international stance that resists the American gangster) is not merely formulated for Arab gratification, or thanks to the influence of our ancient civilization. It is, in short, a position taken in the service of the interests of these nations. France’s policy is informed by its desire to defend its economic interests in Iraq and the Arab world, just as it factors in the electoral influence of the Arabs and Muslims in its own lands. It may even revise these positions if it feels that the various relevant pressures don’t have the capacity to affect its political fortunes or that the government would obtain the same dividends from serving cake to the public.

Despite the charges made by American and Israeli voices, Chirac is not descended from the illustrious tribe of Bani Abbas [the founders of the Abbasid Caliphate, 750-1258]. Likewise, Schröder didn’t mention in his resume that he is from the illustrious Arab tribe of Ghalib or Tamim. And it is almost certain that Putin does not hail from the Arabian Peninsula or North Africa. And yet, my fellow average Arab watching events unfold—mindful of the Arabs claiming to be our leaders (who, it must be said, are responsible for our current condition)—don’t you feel like they are?

This article originally appeared on http://www.albayan.co.ae/. Reprinted with permission.