by Abd el-Bari Atwan in al Quds al Arabi
We never imagined a time when Israel would impose its ‘veto’ on the participation of the Arabs in regional and international conferences, and to succeed in doing so with the utmost east, but it appears that everything is possible in this despicable time for the Arabs.
Yesterday the Jordanian government cancelled a Mediterranean conference on water in protest at Israel’s refusal of a delegation from the Arab League – on the grounds that it was not a Mediterranean country. Just like that. In bygone days, it was the Arabs who would refuse any Israeli participation to conferences they had been invited to, and would withdraw from the main hall of the United Nations General Assembly en-masse, if the Israeli delegate assumed the podium. The same would have been done by the Islamic and Third World countries in sympathy with the Arab cause. Now it is Israel which protests and opposes, finding support and sympathy from many nations, including the Arabs, sadly, to such an extent that all its wishes are fulfilled completely. Mr Amro Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, fumed and thundered, attacking that Israeli ‘veto’ against his league’s participation in the “Union for the Mediterranean” and said, “I just cannot understand that an Arab League initiative can take place, in the absence of the League. We cannot accept such a travesty”.
What Mr Moussa does not wish to admit is that this Israeli arrogance would not have reached such levels as we have witnessed were it not for the ‘weak’ and ‘complicit’ positions of his league, and the eagerness with which it would participate in any conference or meeting that involves the Jewish state.
It may help to remind Mr Moussa of his own personal attendance to the Nobel Prize winners awards ceremony in Petra, Jordan early this year, with his famous tantrum that the organisers would not allow him, due to protocol, from addressing the audience, in response to the attacks of the Israeli president Shimon Peres in which he attacked the Arabs for not wishing peace. On that day, he withdrew from the ceremony, only to return to his seat after he was allowed to speak in the hall, just like any other participant.
The participation of the Arab governments in the organisation “Union for the Mediterranean”, launched by the French president Sarkozy last July was humiliating and according to the conditions set by the Europeans. In these, France insisted on the membership of all states in the European Union, with no exception, and with them Israel. Meanwhile the Arab states would not even insist on the inclusion of the Arab League. The Secretary General did not hold a press conference declaring his opposition to this, threatening to resign from his post in light of this inappropriate treatment of his League. In fact he did the exact same thing when he went to the peace conference in Annapolis, called for by the American president George Bush last November, to renew the Arab-Israeli peace talks. Mr Moussa said that the Arabs will not participate unless Israel committed to stopping settlement building and to lifting the siege on the Palestinian people. They [the Arabs] all attended, including the Secretary General, whilst the siege continued and the settlement building intensified.
The Arabs are the ones who are clamouring for Israel to normalise with them, not the opposite. The foreign minister of Qatar Sheikh Khaled Al Khalifa had called for a regional organisation including Israel, Iran and Turkey and in a position superior to the Arabs. What was the response of Mr Moussa to this unprecedented move? He praised this proposal, describing it as “deep” and reiterating that the Arab members of the league were to seriously consider it.
Such positions encourage Israel to impose a “veto” on the participation of the Arab League or of Arab states to international conferences. They also encourage European countries to support the Israeli position, since they know well that there is no such thing as Arabs who are able to take brave positions against this series of insults.
We are now faced with much more dangerous situations and we wish to hear Mr Moussa’s honest opinion towards them. For the president of the Jewish state Shimon Peres wants a complete peace with the Arabs, claiming that the two-partner peace talks have been proven a failure. That is, he wishes to return to what the Arabs had been calling for, and what Israel had rejected. However, Peres’ invitation is ‘mined’ since he wishes to negotiate on the basis of an Arab peace initiative after it has been modified, and returned to its original Saudi origin. This means the abandoning of the Palestinian right of return. In other words he wishes to sit on the negotiating table, with the Arab countries gathered, on the foundation of an Arab peace initiative after it has been modified, so the normalisation of relations before any withdrawal from the occupied territories, the lifting of the siege on the people of Gaza or even the dismantlement of one checkpoint amongst the six hundred points in the West Bank, or of a single “illegal” settlement, let alone any of the two hundred “legal” settlements. Legal, that is, according to the Israeli definition, which is any settlement built with government approval.
This Israeli arrogance, and Arab submission, appears at a time when the economies of the Western world, the main pillars of support for Israel, are collapsing, and the world political map is being redrawn with new great powers such as China, Russia, India, Brazil and Iran (there is no sign of the Arabs, nor will there be for the foreseeable future), and with America facing two defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Logic tells us that the Arabs should take a much braver approach in dealing with Israel and its European and American allies. Especially since they now possess huge financial resources due to the returns from oil (1 trillion dollars a year). Yet what we see happening is the exact opposite, for they have grown accustomed to insult and to receiving blows with no right to complain from the pain.
Mr Moussa can rest assured that Israel will not pay any attention to his protests, and will continue to use its ‘veto’ against his organisation, or any other governments participating in it, for it knows well that Arab governments are eager to normalise with it and unconditionally, begging it to lead an Israeli-Arab alliance against Iran, the new enemy of the Arabs. Gone from his mind is the fact that Israel now boycotts Arabic satellite stations for their criticism of its occupation and its criminal activities, using the excuse that they are “unprofessional” or “lack objectivity” and refusing the statements of some Arab journalists if they deviate from its instructions on providing coverage and portrayed it as a force of occupation and injustice, the case of al Jazeera being the most prominent of many.
In conclusion we would like to say, Mr Moussa, that the Arab peace initiative will be modified according to Israeli conditions, and we will see Arab nations normalising for free amongst the countries that have not yet normalised with Israel. We would like to stress to him that even if he were to extend an invitation to it to join the Arab league, it would reject it out of disgust and arrogance. How could Israel accept this when it has the final say in the Mediterranean union as it is, and invitations are flooding in for it to join regional groupings with Arabs, Turks and Iranians and by Arab government officials themselves?
Monday, October 27, 2008
by Abd el-Bari Atwan in al Quds al Arabi