Arabs need a proactive approach to Palestinian woes

Published: 01 July 2008
Arabs need a proactive approach to Palestinian woes
Dome of the Rock

If there was an Olympic medal for talking politics, teams from this part of the world would take Gold every time.  If you browse the Arabic satellite networks you will find so-called experts endlessly discussing regional flash points and mulling over the exact same problem as their parents and grandparents did. The inescapable truth is that we are no nearer to witnessing a #Palestinian state than we were 60 years ago when Israel was violently born.

Thousands of articles and books have been written on the subject. Untold numbers of documentaries have been produced and aired about it and there are annual conferences devoted to the subject.  But what have these exposes and discussions yielded in terms of concrete results? Absolutely nothing.

It isn’t talkers we #need but doers. When the region’s leaders meet at Arab League summits we no longer anticipate earth-shattering conclusions. Instead, we’re left with watered-down statements that everyone can grudgingly sign-up to before they are filed away.

Where are the bold heroes, who will stand up for what they believe is right even in the face of adversity, and work towards cementing the Arab world instead of standing by and seeing it shredded apart? When will our leaders realise that only by standing shoulder to shoulder in a relationship of trust will we as a nation, the Arab nation, be heard and respected? It’s time we had our own version of NATO with a commander-in-chief who has the authority to speak and act for all of us.
Sometimes when I read the morning papers I feel like I’ve entered a time wrap. Across the front pages – or more often tucked away at the back – are the same regurgitated headlines about Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison, whose innocent civilian ’inmates’ struggle to find something to eat or medicines that can prolong someone’s life.

An April 18th Reuters headline reads, “Carter calls Gaza Blockade a Crime and Atrocity”. The former US President says Palestinians in Gaza are being “starved to death”. He called the ongoing situation “an abomination”, which, of course, it is. Carter is outraged but where is our outrage?  How many of our leaders are prepared to get involved in a hands-on manner?

A few weeks ago, I watched one of the Doha Debates. The motion was “The house believes the Palestinians risk becoming their own enemy”, which was carried by more than 70 per cent of the audience in Qatar.

It seems a large percentage of young #Arabs now blame a people barely subsisting under decades of occupation for their own ills.  Perhaps it’s easier this way. They can return to their comfortable homes or go to meet friends in the café with their conscience intact. If the Palestinians are their own worst enemy, then everything is their fault and we get to sleep soundly at night.

Burying our heads in the sand may be comforting in the short run but as long as we shy away from taking charge of our own destiny we can expect to be disrespected and kicked around. We knew the Roadmap and Annapolis were based on empty promises that were unlikely to happen. We knew they were attempts to bluff us into thinking progress would be made, yet, between yawns, we went through the motions of believing.

And when are we going to quit pretending to ourselves that the US administration is our friend when we know in our hearts that it has only one real friend in the area; a friend that can massacre Palestinians, erect apartheid fences, expand illegal settlements and stockpile nuclear weapons with impunity. America is a great country and I’m blessed with so many good American friends but I’m under no illusions about its one-sided foreign policy, which is always angled in Israel’s favour.

For how much longer are we willing to hand over our own decision-making to a foreign power, which we know full well is not acting in our interest but out of self-interest and is in cahoots with our enemies?

It’s about time we came up with a plan and saw it through to its logical conclusion. We must decide whether Hamas is the real obstacle to peace or whether it merely supplies a pretext for Israel to ignore its obligations. We should mull over this question: If Hamas magically disappeared tomorrow would the Palestinians be closer to a final settlement with Israel?

Based on history, I don’t think they would. After the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, Israel announced a new turning point for peace. At the time, Hamas didn’t feature in the equation. Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate, was in charge of the #Palestinian Authority. But instead of working with Mr. Abbas towards a settlement, Israel virtually ignored him.

His authority was further eroded when the US demanded free and fair elections, which brought Hamas to power. And as we know from leaked US State Department memos, Washington, unhappy with the election result, pressured Abbas to sever ties with the Hamas leadership and work towards its physical ousting. American policy caused the split between Palestinians, whose cause has suffered accordingly.

How many more children in Gaza have to be slaughtered before our leaders say enough is enough? Many kids were killed recently and their crime was what? The killing is relentless. Israel won’t stop it. The US sees no evil and speaks no evil when it comes to Israel. And all we in the Arab world are doing is holding televised debates that conclude that the Palestinians are their own worst enemy.

Unless we start calling the shots in our own neighbourhood and show that we mean business we will remain ineffective; destined to complain until our jaws ache, perhaps, for another 60 years when newspapers will run the same sad stories for our grandchildren to pour over. And how will our children excuse us when their own kids are asking why we talked so much and did so little?

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