By Ilene Prusher

An article by a Saudi journalist challenging the conventional wisdom in the Arab world – in particular the view of Israel as the root of the region’s problems – is enjoying skyrocketing popularity online and sparking debate about the Arab Spring.

Under the headline “Arab Spring and the Israeli enemy,” the writer used the occasion of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 to wonder aloud about the resources spent on war, in particular the War of Independence in 1948 and the Six-Day War in 1967.

“What was the real cost for not recognizing Israel in 1948 and why didn’t the Arab states spend their assets on education, healthcare, and the infrastructures instead of wars?” asked Abdulateef al-Mulhim in the Arab News, a Saudi Arabian newspaper in English whose website “gets hundreds of thousands of hits every day” from around the world, according to the paper’s site.

“But, the hardest question that no Arab national wants to hear is whether Israel is the real enemy of the Arab world and the Arab people,” wrote al-Mulhim.

“I decided to write this article after I saw photos and reports about a starving child in Yemen, a burned ancient Aleppo souk in Syria, the underdeveloped Sinai in Egypt, car bombs in Iraq, and the destroyed buildings in Libya. The photos and the reports were shown on the Al-Arabiya network, which is the most watched and respected news outlet in the Middle East,” he wrote.

“The common thing among all what I saw is that the destruction and the atrocities are not done by an outside enemy. The starvation, the killings, and the destruction in these Arab countries are done by the same hands that are supposed to protect and build the unity of these countries and safeguard the people of these countries. So, the question now is that who is the real enemy of the Arab world?” he asked.

Al-Mulhim continued later in the column: “The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives, and finally, the Arab world’s many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people.”

“These dictators’ atrocities against their own people are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars,” he added, pointing out the mistreatment of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers, but delineating equally outrageous events in the region, from the devastating war in Syria to the upheaval in Iraq, the corruption in Tunisia that allowed the former president “to steal $13 billion from the poor Tunisians.”

Al-Mulhim then called on Arab countries to stop blaming Israel for their woes and concluded, “Now, it is time to stop the wars and start to create better living conditions for the future Arab generations.”

The article has been shared widely around social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, and has been republished in several other newspapers since it was published on the Arab News website on October 6. Tim Marshall, a British journalist with Sky News, shared the link in his Twitter Feed and added: “If there were more like this guy – fewer people would die.”

Al-Mulhim, who also writes columns for the al-Saudia al-Yawm newspaper, has written several columns recently that seemed aimed at fomenting debate. In one, he castigated Saudis for complaining about the surplus of expatriates in the kingdom but relying on them to keep the workforce going.

In another, he called on Michelle Obama, the wife of U.S. President Barack Obama, to explain why American women have only managed to be first ladies – or to be appointed secretary of state – but have never been elected president. [This from a country whose women are forbidden to drive. -Ed.]

The article on the paper’s website has garnered close to 300 comments, some of them in praise of al-Mulhim’s “brave” words, and others bashing his portrayal of events, particularly his suggestion that Palestinians are “better off” than many other Arabs.

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