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AMF panellists highlight Palestinian issue as major hurdle for geopolitical stability regionally

AMF panellists highlight Palestinian issue as major hurdle for geopolitical stability regionally

Economic underperformance and crises of various kinds gripping states across the region cloud prospects for wider prosperity

Experts see promise of a better future in the youth of the region and their dynamism

A panel discussion on the second day of the Arab Media Forum witnessed a lot of soul-searching over the question of Palestine, which both experts involved said presented a major impediment to the quest for lasting peace and stability across the region.

During the discussion titled ‘The Middle East: A Vision for Stability’ Mina Al-Oraibi, Editor in Chief, The National; and Dr. Afshin Molavi, Researcher in Foreign Policy & Advanced International Studies, Washington, shared their insights on what ailed regional geopolitics and how they thought things could be remedied for the common good. The discussion was moderated by Dan Murphy, TV Presenter, CNBC International.

Molavi commented that the region seemed to have enjoyed relative geopolitical stability before the war broke out in Gaza on October 7 last year. Al-Oraibi rued the fact that there appeared to be no viable day-after plan in Gaza ever since the war started. The veto against a Palestinian state at the UN would have a significant impact on the prospects for peace and stability across the region, she added.

The real dividing line in today’s regional scenario, Molavi added, was between those navigating the future and those stuck in the past – like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was fighting for his political survival in Israel’s boisterous democracy, and the Palestinian group Hamas.

Al-Oraibi said there had been numerous issues across the region that had been under the spotlight even before the Gaza war, like Yemen’s struggle with the Houthis, Lebanon’s meltdown, Syria, and Iran, to name a few. All those issues, however, felt like the calm before the storm when Gaza started burning, she said.

Molavi observed that, taken in totality, the region accounted for about 500 million people with all the ingredients to be a thriving, booming haven for its populace, which was not the case. Many countries were underperforming economically and this was costing their populations in terms of opportunities, especially the youth, he added.

Al-Oraibi said the people themselves would have to contribute in their own ways in the creation of a prosperous, thriving, and stable region.
Molavi pointed to an Arab Youth Survey reflecting dissatisfaction among the youth about aspects of their lives that could be described as universal aspirations. However, it was also the dynamism of youth that continued to inspire hope of a better future for the region, he said.

Tough challenge
Earlier, Al-Oraibi and Molavi focused their gaze on the ground realities in Gaza. Those journalists who had dared to be on the ground in Gaza have done a heroic job, Al-Oraibi said. Reporting live from the ground, though, can be draining for both reporters and media outlets alike, she cautioned. Significant resources need to be deployed aside from the big effort and big heart it calls for. Writers, contributors, and media outlets were all overstretched in trying to reflect the situation on the ground as best as they could, she added.

Still, it is only fair to admit that everyone was subjective at the end of the day, Al-Oraibi said. Choosing photos and stories every day is a call each media outlet takes based on its core audience and the demands it made. Algorithms come into play, and media outlets are compelled to advocate a certain vision.

Molavi said that unless one genuinely feels for events as they unfold, it is hard to get a sense of the tragedy in Gaza. There’s a whole different story playing on media in the West, he said. Social media had perhaps had more success in bringing to light the grim realities of Gaza, he added.

The experts also addressed the question of two different media realities for Israelis and Palestinians. Al-Oraibi noted that there had been criticism on the matter of Israeli hostages in many Arab capitals but Israeli media, on the other hand, had virtually abdicated responsibility when it came to balancing their war coverage.

Molavi acknowledged that algorithms have indeed come to drive news cycles and news outlets are not isolated from this. He urged people as consumers of news to find a way to break the stranglehold of algorithms.