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OPINION

TUESDAY 25 APRIL 2017,

SAUDI GAZETTE

10

Establishing lasting peace is the work of

education; all politics can do is keep us out of

war.

Maria Montessori (1870-1952)

Italian educator

Good teachers know how to bring out the best

in students.

Charles Kuralt (1934-1997)

American journalist

Dr. Khaled

M. Batarfi

Aijaz

ZakaSyed

The danger of complacency

in France

T

HE

best news from the French presidential election

appears to be that Emmanuel Macron emerged with

a larger vote than National Front candidate Marine

Le Pen. There is a growing certainty that in two

weeks time, the former top flight civil servant and

investment banker turned politician will become the

youngest person ever to occupy the Elysee Palace.

The euro has strengthened on the Sunday’s result. German

Chancellor Angela Merkel led the flow of congratulations to the

avowedly pro-European Macron. Doing the math, if the supporters of

the failed center and center-right candidates rally behind the 39-year

old Macron, he is a shoo in for the presidency. Pundits are predicting

that he will win 60 percent of the final vote.

In his victory speech he sought to steal some of Marine Le

Pen’s nationalist rhetoric. And Macron aides were quietly crowing

that the National Front’s claim that it was the largest party in

France was not borne out by the first round vote. They argue that

Le Pen has no reserve of support. In a turnout of approaching 80

percent, it is hard the see where she could draw the extra votes

necessary to propel her to the French leadership.

But this is to ignore some disturbing psephological evidence.

The National Front has done well in local and European elections.

Le Pen’s party has managed the tap widespread disaffection with

the EU project and greater European integration. Macron’s liberal

establishment agenda is the exact opposite of the National Front’s

chauvinism.

With the defeat of the centrist Francois Fillon, the Republican

party who pulled some 20 percent of the vote, means the removal of

the only other politician to display, albeit mildly, the anti-immigration

and Islamophobic colors of the National Front. There is no guarantee

that all of his voters will now swing behind Macron. Equally the far-

left socialist Melenchon’s core working class base is not obviously

enamored of the establishment Macron. Even though her economic

policies have been ridiculed as innumerate, it seems probably that

blue collar workers will be lured by promises of job protection and

enhanced welfare benefits. And among the French labor force there is

no great love for EU worker mobility, which has seen French jobs go to

East Europeans. It is striking that though the French elite has moved

to work around Europe, not least London, there has been little in the

way of working class worker migration, even to prosperous Germany

which is crying out for skilled labor.

Therefore whatever his promises to seek reforms in Brussels,

Macron looks to most French voters like a continuity candidate, who

moreover threatens to undo the generous work and welfare benefits

that have undermined France’s international competitiveness. Thus

despite the apparent rising tide of complacency, the racist Marine Le

Pen’s defeat is by no means certain.

Moreover, in June there will be elections to the French parliament

where the National Front currently holds just two of the 577 seats.

Even if Le Pen loses, her party could still see a dramatic increase in the

number of its legislators. Unless Macron’s new and untried “En Marche”

party makes a dramatic showing, he could fund himself as a president

faced with a fractious and angry parliament. Le Pen and her odious

supporters may currently be down but they are by no means out.

Tunisia — the art of bridge building!

I

WAS invited to a photog-

raphy exhibition opened

by the Tunisian Minis-

ter of Tourism Salma Al-

Loumi Rafiq and attended

by Tunisian Ambassador Lotfi

Ben Gaied, Consul General Sami

Al-Saidi, Tourism Officer in the

Gulf region Choukri Charrad,

chairman of the Culture and Arts

Association in Jeddah, Omar Al-

Jasser and a number of media

professionals, intellectuals and

artists, as well as representatives

of tourism and travel agencies.

The exhibition was a joint

project between the Tunisian

Ministry of Tourism and the

Saudi Culture and Arts Associa-

tion in Jeddah. Last year, a group

of young Saudi photographers

were invited to Tunisia. They vis-

ited all major cities, from Tunis,

Sousse, Hammamet, Djerba, Biz-

erte, on the Mediterranean coast,

to historical Kairouan in the

heartland. They photographed

historical and archaeological

sites, representing various re-

gions and features of the nation

that goes back three thousand

years with a mix of Phoenician,

Carthaginian, Arab and African

civilizations.

I was called onto the po-

dium to give a speech. I told

my audience: What I saw today

was a shining model of the sci-

ence and art of bridge building.

The concept closely follows our

holy book, the Qur’an, as Allah

says: (O people, we created you

as male and female and made

you peoples and tribes to get ac-

quainted with each others).

Bridge building is a scien-

tific art that peoples have mas-

tered and developed throughout

history of mankind. They have

explored and migrated vast and

wide — traded, intermarried, and

exchanged knowledge, science

and culture. Civilizations are

based on knowledge, and knowl-

edge is cumulative. The mathe-

matics, algebra, astronomy, medi-

cine, engineering and sociology

developed by Arabs had helped

European nations build up their

civilizations. The Arabs, in turn,

benefited from Greek, Persian, In-

dian, Chinese and Roman philoso-

phy, arts and sciences.

Literature and the arts have

always been a bridge of commu-

nication and acquaintance among

peoples. Major Arab cultural

events include Jerash (Jordan),

Carthage (Tunisia), Janadriyah,

(Saudi), Asilah (Morocco), the

Book Fair (Cairo, Riyadh and

Sharjah), as well as political fo-

rums in Doha, trade fares in Dubai

and summer festivals in Muscat

and Jeddah.

Still, we need more cultural

events of fine arts, such as paint-

ing, photography, music, theater

and folklore. We could benefit

of more cooperation among uni-

versities, institutes, research and

studies centers. Students, teach-

ers and scientists exchange pro-

grams, as well as contests and

joint projects should increase and

cover all schools, subjects and na-

tions.

Political and economic devel-

opment are the most important

bridges of cooperation between

the Gulf countries and Tunisia,

today. Saudi Arabia and Qatar

are among the most eager bridge

builders. At the Tunis Internation-

al Conference 2020, held at the

end of November 2016, these two

Gulf countries, alone, contributed

billions of dollars to development

projects in various Tunisian eco-

nomic and social sectors. Qatar’s

total investment reached more

than 1 billion dollars by 2015, and

came in third in total foreign di-

rect investment. The head of the

Qatar Chamber, Sheikh Khalifa

Bin Jassim Al-Thani, is leading

Qatari private sector investments

in Tunisia.

In the field of tourism, it is

regrettable that the development

that took place at the beginning

of the second millennium has de-

clined after the “so-called” Arab

Spring events, the political tur-

moil and the terrorist incidents in

Tunisia.

However, what I witnessed

during my last visit, November,

2016, shows the return of stability,

security, as well as, a noticeable

increase in infrastructure projects

and tourism investments. This

should encourage the return of

Gulf investments, trade and tour-

ism to a country so rich in human,

natural, industrial and mineral

resources. In addition, Arabs, es-

pecially from the Gulf Coopera-

tion Council (GCC) states, are so

welcome in Tunisia, officially

and publicly. It helped that our

peoples are very close and simi-

lar. We are all proud of our Arabic

heritage and conservative fam-

ily culture. The successful invest-

ments of Saudi businessmen, such

as, pioneering investor, Saleh Ka-

mel, are a good example of how

such cooperation may benefit all.

Today, our grand dreams and

ambitions, in the Arab world, to

join the First World need more

strategic visionaries, such as the

Saudi and Qatari leaders, and

pioneering investors like Sheikh

Khalifa Bin Jassim and Saleh Ka-

mel. Tourism, for the rest of us, is

the way to interconnect with each

other and help make the bridge-

building efforts worthwhile.

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi

writer based in Jeddah. He can be

reached at

kbatarfi@gmail.com

.

Follow him at

Twitter:@kbatarfi

Macron: A ray of

hope for EU

D

EFENDERS of lib-

eral democracy in

France and else-

where sighed with

relief after Sunday’s

first-round vote in France’s presi-

dential election. The centrist,

pro-European Union political

upstart, Emmanuel Macron, who

founded his En Marche! party

just last year, looks set to face

off against the far-right populist

National Front candidate, Ma-

rine Le Pen, in the final vote for

the French presidency on May 7.

Polls have predicted that Macron

will beat Le Pen handily, though,

with its traditional parties left in

shambles by this election, France

remains deeply divided and its

politics unsteady.

Certainly, if Macron prevails

on May 7, that will be good news

for Europe: The embattled Euro-

pean Union would most likely not

survive if France left the bloc. But

the strong showing by Le Pen —

who promises a referendum on

France remaining in the union — is

a further warning of the rising dan-

ger posed by populist right-wing

leaders, in Europe and around the

world. Her anti-immigrant Na-

tional Front party will surely re-

main strong as long as French un-

employment lingers in the double

digits, and the many French who

believe they have been abandoned

by global elites see no better hope

elsewhere. Le Pen called her per-

formance in the polls on Sunday

“an act of French pride.”

Macron and Le Pen’s strong

showings have upended French

politics, as voters spurned the

mainstream center-left Socialist

Party and center-right Les Répub-

licains party that have dominated

the landscape for decades. The

Socialist Party of the deeply un-

popular president, François Hol-

lande, lies shattered, with its can-

didate, Benoît Hamon, trailing in

a distant fifth place. Hamon con-

ceded defeat on Sunday, throwing

his support behind Macron.

A fourth candidate, François

Fillon of Les Républicains, also

failed to win enough votes to

put him on the May 7 ballot af-

ter being dogged by charges that

he used public funds to pay his

wife and children for work they

may not have done. Fillon also

conceded on Sunday night and

said he would vote for Macron

on May 7. He warned of Le Pen

that “extremism can only bring

about the misfortune and division

of France.” A far-left candidate,

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who reaped

a late surge of support, was trail-

ing Fillon, but said he would wait

until the final, official count was

announced before conceding.

France may be entering a

new, fractured political era, but

on Sunday its voters showed that

they remained receptive to Ma-

cron’s hopeful message, including

his openness to immigrants and

diversity, despite a recent spate

of terrorist attacks and Le Pen’s

dark campaign. Macron said on

Sunday that he wanted to be the

“president of patriots, to face the

threat of nationalists,” holding

himself out as France’s true agent

of change after decades of gov-

ernment failure. France will now

face a stark choice on May 7, and

hopes for Europe will ride not just

on a win by Macron, but on his

subsequent success in delivering

on his commitment.

The New York Times

For a more just world

of Palestine does. No issue has

consumed the world body’s time,

resources and energy as the Pal-

estine question has. Hundreds of

resolutions have been passed by

the UN expressing ‘grave con-

cern’ over the Palestine-Israel

conflict and the plight of Pales-

tinians without making any dif-

ference whatsoever.

Whenever the world body

did seek to check or even cen-

sure the Israeli crimes against

humanity, the US stepped in to

bail out the aggressor. Using its

veto power, Washington blocked

at least 40 UN resolutions cen-

suring Israeli actions.

From 1947 to the end of the

Cold war in 1990, more than half

of the 690 resolutions passed by

the General Assembly dealt with

the Middle East conflict and all of

them were like water off a duck’s

back for Israel and its mentor.

No one else has defied, mocked

and trampled on UN ideals and

principles as Israel has with the

blessings of the country that

hosts the world body.

Addressing the UN in 2011,

a day before Mahmoud Abbas

presented his case for a Pales-

tinian state, President Barack

Obama welcomed an indepen-

dent South Sudan while slam-

ming the door in the face of Pal-

estinians. Peace cannot come

through statements and reso-

lutions at the UN, thundered

Obama, ignoring the fact that it

was the UN that gave Israel the

fig leaf of recognition immedi-

ately after a unilateral declara-

tion of statehood by the Zionists

on May 14, 1948.

Israel held no negotiations

whatsoever with Arabs before it

formed its borders at gunpoint.

But then Israel and its friends

have always had a selective

memory. So Washington used

its veto power all over again for

Israel, defying all reason, com-

mon sense and its own ideals to

block even a token recognition

of a Palestinian state.

Can there be a worse ex-

ample of international double

standards? Is there no limit to

global hypocrisy and duplic-

ity? The blessed institution that

was ostensibly created to build

peace and resolve conflicts has

become a big stick in the hands

of big powers.

Of course, many UN agencies

have been doing an exemplary

job of providing aid and fight-

ing poverty, disease and other

demons. However, the world

body has spectacularly failed

in its chief objective, its raison

d’ etre, of protecting peace and

preventing conflicts. The insti-

tution formed to promote peace

is dictated by the old jungle rule

of “might is right.”

If this has to change, the

UN must change reflecting the

changed geopolitical realities of

the 21st century. Isn’t it strange

that the largest democratic body

on the planet offers no real say

to more than half of the world’s

population?

The Security Council that

runs the show remains restricted

to the US, Russia, UK, France and

China — four of them victors of

World War II. The Middle East,

the cradle of civilizations, home

to three great faiths and most

of the world’s known energy re-

sources, has no say whatsoever

in the decision-making process

of the world body. A country like

India with a billion plus popula-

tion remains out in cold. Ditto

Africa where human life itself is

said to have begun.

There is no representation for

the world’s 1.7 billion Muslims

either. Indeed, the entire global

South does not find a seat at the

table. Why should the UN be the

preserve of a select, elite club?

India has been flexing its

diplomatic muscles and growing

political and economic clout to

demand a permanent member-

ship of the Security Council. But

it is about time everyone else

joined the fight too for a com-

plete restructuring of the world

body. It’s time for a new world

order and for a fair and just UN.

A just and democratic world or-

der is not possible without jus-

tice and equality at the UN.

Aijaz Zaka Syed is an award-

winning journalist. Email: Aijaz.

syed@hotmail.com

T

HE more things

change at the Unit-

ed Nations, the

more they remain

the same. The

United States and Russia, the

two superpowers, have been

taking turns to belittle and dis-

empower the world body that

they both helped create in the

wake of the World War II, os-

tensibly to make peace and

avoid yet another catastrophic

war. However, the world body

has ended up as a plaything

in the hands of world powers.

And for all its lofty ideals and

principles, it has repeatedly let

down the Palestinians and the

dispossessed everywhere. In-

deed, the Palestinians and UN

share a long history of betrayals

that goes way back, right up to

its inception in 1945.

No wonder words like the

UN resolutions, peace process

and international community

invariably evoke cynicism in

the Middle East. The UN has

been extraordinarily prompt

and effective in dealing with

the so-called rogue regimes

across the Muslim world but

has been totally helpless in

the face of real offenders and

crimes against humanity.

This is why the calls for

comprehensive reforms to

make the world body more rep-

resentative and democratic and

effective in dealing with con-

flicts like the one that has been

plaguing Syria for the past six

years have lately been growing

more and more strident.

In 2011, in an impassioned

speech the late Saudi Foreign

Minister Saud Al Faisal had

called for restructuring the UN.

While imploring the world

body to accept the Palestinian

demand for full membership,

Saudi Arabia turned the focus

on the lopsided structure of the

institution that is supposed to

be the world parliament.

The Saudi call came at a time

when the Security Council was

to take up the issue of Palestin-

ian request for statehood, which

the US pledged to veto. In a state-

ment distributed at the UN, Saud

Al Faisal argued: “One of the

important (UN) reforms should

be restricting the use of the veto

power through a commitment

from permanent members not

to use it toward actions that are

intended for the implementation

of already adopted resolutions of

the Security Council.”

Of course, it’s not just the

US that has been using the veto

power to bail out Israel every

time. Over the past few years,

Russia has also employed this

arbitrary power again and again

to protect Bashar Al-Assad, the

doctor who has presided over

the massacre of his own people.

Perhaps no other issue illus-

trates the abject helplessness of

the UN and other international

institutions as the occupation