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French Version

Is the Arab World undergoing another colonization ?

Is the Arab World undergoing another colonization ?
• Moderator, Mr Vincent Hervouet:

How would you define the word colonisation ?
Is it a relevant concept to describe the current situation ?

Mr El-Sayad: There is only one “hyper-power”, but it relies on contributions from the rest of the world. The relationship between the United States and the Arab world can be defined as the neo-colonialism of the 21st century. It is counter-productive to impose democracy through the force of arms. The Arab world must evolve, but this is not the right way to accomplish such change.

Mr Barghouti: There are two specific cases of colonialism at present. The first is in Palestine, with a new apartheid-style colonial system. The second is in Iraq, where the risk of colonisation will grow if the United States does not withdraw its troops. To avoid this situation, it must hand over administration to the UN.

Mr Mathias: Colonialism occurs when economic and political power is used to dominate other peoples. There are of course movements of resistance against the occupiers. It is a difficult situation to accept, but there is a reason for it.

Mr Encel: This is not colonisation. The term does not apply here. If it were the case, the Americans would be bad colonialists. This forced settlement is more like imperialism. It would also mean that most heads of Arab states support this “colonisation”, as 15 of the 22 members of the Arab League have military links with the United States. We can observe that once a nation is favoured, it automatically wishes to spread its model elsewhere. So this is not colonisation, otherwise the word loses its meaning. Nonetheless, there is another form of colonialism in the third world in general, with the domination of the ultra-liberal economic model.

Mr Khan: It is obvious that the words civilisation and colonisation are used too casually. The United States has occupied two Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, and indirectly occupies Palestine. Before 9/11, the United States was an “invisible empire”. Ben Laden forced it to show its true colours. We are seeing the limits of its power as it is obliged to use force to fulfil its objectives. It has to break the law itself in its campaign to uphold law and freedom. It should be noted that the notion of preventive action is also against international law.

• Moderator: Is ignoring culture part of colonialism? Weren’t the pictures of Saddam Hussein’s arrest an affront to Arabs?

Mr Bauchard: The pictures were shown for electoral purposes. The way they were presented created deep feelings of humiliation, even in people who did not support Saddam Hussein. The emotional impact of words and images should never be underestimated.

• Moderator: Not all the United States’ policies are criminal. Don’t you think that their intervention will also lead to progress?

Mr El-Sayed: Let’s not focus on semantics, but on pragmatic debate. The issue is that the United States has made a complete turnaround in its words and actions compared with 1945, when it favoured multilateralism. Iraq has not been freed but colonised. Democracy cannot be imposed from outside and will not come into being whilst the country is occupied.

Mr Khan: The United States offers far stronger guarantees of democracy than anywhere else in the world. Colonisation is part of history. The Americans are not going to steal Iraqi oil; there would be lots of other ways of doing this with the full consent of the Iraqis themselves. The real question is the position of the rest of the world faced with America’s power. We must promote values that enable the UN to become a power once again.

• Moderator: Are we talking about an empire?

Mr Encel: The United States’ action is motivated by a realistic geopolitical stance. This nonetheless distorts the debate. The coalition has flouted Iraq’s sovereignty. In political terms, everything done there can be criticised. Force must be increased to stop force. One of the ways of doing this is to increase Europe’s military organization.

Mr Bauchard: This is an imperial situation that is worse than colonisation. An empire seeks to impose democracy from the outside. Copying a democratic model is not a positive option.

• Moderator: Can Europe defend its democratic values?

Mr Mathias: Relations with Palestine show that Europe could play a more important role. But agreement must be reached with the local populations if democracy is to be introduced.

Mr Barghouti: Things are too confused at the moment. The Arab world has not taken up the challenge of modernisation. There is an on-going issue of knowledge and freedom of government. There is an evident lack of justice in these countries. An obvious example is Palestine, where the challenge is to re-establish a constitutional state. We, the Arabs, need democracy for ourselves, not for the United States. We should not accept double standards when it comes to justice and freedom.

Mr Al-Said: The fight against terrorism is not a clear-cut issue of good versus bad. Civilized peoples share values such as democracy and non-proliferation, which must be promoted elsewhere. Europe must stop harking back to the past. The Europeans will lose a great deal if they attack American policy. We, the Arabs, should have more democracy, but we do not want the same values as the Americans. A model must be chosen by the people, inside their own country, and not imported from outside. We dream of a world based on respect for human rights. We need you, the Europeans, to help us achieve it.

Refaat EL-SAID, Secrétaire général du parti du rassemblement égyptien
Mustapha BARGHOUTI, Président du Comité Palestinien de Secours Médical
Denis BAUCHARD, Président de l'Institut du Monde Arabe
Frédéric ENCEL, Docteur en géopolitique, spécialiste du Moyen-Orient
Muqtedar KHAN, Directeur des études internationales à l’Adrian College
Aly MAHER EL-SAYED, ancien Ambassadeur d'Egypte, Secrétaire général de la Fondation de la pensée arabe
Leonardo MATHIAS, ancien Ambassadeur du Portugal à Paris

Paris,03 01 2004
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