The year 2016 was a bloody year for the Arabs. Wars, civil strife, economic downturn and a feeling of hopelessness cast long and dark shadows over most part of the Arab world.
The Arab Spring which later turned out to lead to the autumn of the despots took the Arab ship into storms that if not overcome will further lead us into disintegration and fracture us beyond repair.
Years of neglect of societal development, dictatorship, military rule and adventurism have all brought us to this hell-hole. Many Arab countries are fighting for survival – not against foreign forces but against monsters created by a lack of empathy and despots who suppress the aspirations of their own people.
In occupied Palestine, a repressive cunning and heartless Zionist government is on the rampage killing hundreds of innocent children and women ignored by a world that is so obsessed with President-elect Trump’s tweets that it cannot see the despair of the Palestinian people.
However, will we Arabs wallow in self-pity and wring our hands or we will come up with a blueprint to modify the situation and make 2017 a watershed in our history?
And what should that blueprint be?
First, sustainable economic growth that is only possible in the absence of conflict. We need to create a vibrant society, a buoyant economy and a progressive nation.
There should be consensus and a look at the higher stakes. The Arab League should be revived and be given the power to make a new mission statement. And no time should be wasted on summits and conferences. The real challenge is to frame the burning issues that confront us. It would be unrealistic to think that this is an easy task. It is not.
However, Arab states must find commonality to flourish as a modern society. Progress is impossible without change and Arab leaders should know that those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. They must appeal to all stakeholders and to all segments of society, which should join together to contribute to nation building and the establishment of international understanding around a set of key issues that should be the core of our survival.
We have millions of young people who are tired of being cast as “terrorists” and “backward”. They need guidance and effort to unlock and unharness their potential. They cannot do this with the prevailing mindset of arrogant bureaucrats. What gives these people the right to control our lives?
The great spirit of the new generation has always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds and those in power should engage these spirits. We have to focus on this generation and provide them with the freedom to express their opinions and open avenues of self-help for them. Ignoring them will be at our peril. If they are enticed by extremist groups, it will mean that 2017 will be no better than the previous year.
We, therefore, need an educational climate, diverse views, acceptance and tolerance in order to challenge the bigotry that now prevails in many Arab societies.
And we should never forget that the problem with ideologically motivated warriors is that ideology can morph and mutate in directions unacceptable to a modern, pragmatic state in which freedom of expression and human rights for all prevail.