The U.S. and the Arabs: so similar, yet so democratically different

Special to The Daily Star

Popular beliefs and perceptions aside, Arabs and Americans have much more in common than they like to think. Selective historical memories and a growing sense of insecurity are only two glaring examples in this regard.

Just consider the way Arabs talk about Saddam Hussein these days. Consider the way they treat his surviving family members, his daughter Raghad for instance. Her face has recently been splashed on the covers and pages of many society magazines. Reading these publications, one is tempted to imagine that the mad tyrant was actually a national hero who did many great things for Iraqis and Arabs in general.  Continue reading “The U.S. and the Arabs: so similar, yet so democratically different”

Syria: A Culture of Fear and Stalemate

A brief excursion in cultural archaeology

Even a casual glimpse of the current developments between Israelis and Palestinians can easily lead to the detection of the ongoing “mobilization” efforts of the two peoples, with each set of leaders hoping to achieve greater popular support for its policies in the unfolding bloody confrontation. But when such “popular” mobilization efforts take place in the neighboring country of Syria, for instance, one is bound to wonder as to the reason and the cause.

Continue reading “Syria: A Culture of Fear and Stalemate”

For a more rational approach to peace and normalisation

As a 35-year-old Arab, I have learned not to put too much faith in my leaders’ ability to rise to my expectations, no matter how reasonable and modest they happen to be. I have also learned that any regional leader, Arab or Israeli, who thinks that a solution to the conflict can be accomplished by military means is an idiot, albeit a dangerous one.

Aside from anything that happens at the Beirut summit, there are many Arabs, of all classes and backgrounds, who sincerely want a more rational and compassionate approach to peace and normalisation. Continue reading “For a more rational approach to peace and normalisation”

A Dialogue on the Middle East and Other Subjects

Anthropoetics 7, no. 2 (Fall 2001 / Winter 2002)

Ammar Abdulhamid (Author & Pro-Democracy Activist, Damascus, Syria) & Eric Gans (French & Francophone Studies UCLA, Los Angeles CA)

Editorial Note: This text was composed in September-October 2001 as an interview intended for publication in the Arabic-language webzine Maaber ( In part because it clarifies my position on matters that have preoccupied us since September 11, I requested Mr. Abdulhamid’s permission to publish it in Anthropoetics. Taking advantage of what the French call l’esprit de l’escalier, I have appended some additional material in [brackets]. – EG (bio)

Maaber’s editorial team (here and here) have also taken advantage of the same esprit de l’escalier and have appended some commentaries in red. – Dimitri A. Continue reading “A Dialogue on the Middle East and Other Subjects”