Reiterates Past Summit Positions, Evades Solid Proposals, Avoids Criticism of Israel
Syyed Mansoor Agha analyses the 31st Summit of Arab League, points out the hollowness of the tall claims made in the communique and dwells upon the nitty-gritty of the Palestine issue.
Algeria hosted the 31st Summit of 22-nation Arab League in the capital Algiers on November 1-2. In the final declaration, the Arab leaders reaffirmed “the centrality of the Palestinian cause” and reiterated “absolute support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to gain their freedom, self-determination, and set up an independent state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
They also stressed “adherence to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative” and commitment to reaching a just and comprehensive peace as a strategic option to end the Israeli occupation of all Arab lands. However, the conference evaded solid proposals for advancing Palestine’s statehood or rights, or for safeguarding Palestinian people from the brutalities of the Zionist regime of Israel.
MANY HEADS SKIPPED
The sheen of the first summit after 2019, was also diminished as many heads, including King Salman of KSA and his Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chose to skip. Instead, a low-profile Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, represented KSA. Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdallah represented Jordan, a first for the prince. The Amir of Abu Dubai represented the UAE. The Lebanese President and the Sultan of Oman also did not attend. Moroccan King Mohammed VI, the King of Bahrain, and the Amir of Kuwait also absented. Syria was expelled from the Arab League a decade ago.
As Al-Jazeera reported, many feel disillusioned and see the pledges and pronouncement of the League as empty rhetoric on the issue for decades. The Arab League was established in March 1945 with the aim to unite the Arab world. The 77 years of its history are devoid of any progress in bringing the Arab people closer. However, several regional conflicts have weakened Arab Unity.
THE PALESTINIAN ISSUE
The Palestinian issue has always been at the top of the Arab’s table. There was a time when they stood strongly against the Jewish occupation of Palestine, Golan Heights and the West Bank but with the changing times, voices have chocked. One of the reasons is that six of the twenty-two members of the Arab League – Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco – have now reconciled with the occupier Israel and have established diplomatic ties with it. Some others may also join them. These countries are looking at the possibilities of Israeli assistance in the fields of energy, food and water security, health and some other issues. The Israelis are technologically strong and diplomatically shrewd. While the sorry plight of the brave people of Palestine is going on.
Ironically, for many Arab countries, the killers of countless helpless Palestinian Arabs are no more foes. Through a series of agreements, since 15 September 2020, brokered under Donald Trump’s regime of the USA, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and, potentially strong Sudan signed a series of accords, dubbed “Abraham Accords” with the Zionist regime of Israel, to “normalise diplomatic relations”. Egypt’s military rulers have generally been soft with Israel and hard with the caged people of Gaza. It changed briefly during the short-lived regime of Mohamed Morsi (2012-13). Though all countries continue to speak for the creation of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital yet they reacted meekly when Donald Trump accorded legitimacy to the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem and relocate the US embassy to the occupied land.
The recent League meeting also showed deft modesty against the Zionist regime. Now the phrase “Zionist regime” is a forgotten term. Earlier the consensus was strong on the issues like the rejection of the Israeli occupation of Palestine territories; floating the idea of “normalising relations” with the racist regime of Israelis was unimaginable. The Bani-Israel, as the Qur’ān called them, have been identified in general as biters of Muslims and adversaries of Islam. The firm stand of boycotting Israel at every level is weaning out. Now the Israeli cooperation is all pleasure even to purify saline water, produce solar energy and procure defence equipment to deter neighbouring Muslim countries. So, it looks natural that the recent declaration, which is without strategically viable proposals to achieve the Palestinian objectives, may not help in healing the wounds of Palestinian people, who are still standing strongly against the Zionist atrocities.
The growing weakness in their stand and going further to establish diplomatic ties with the destroyer of Palestinian Arabs has naturally diminished the spirit of Arab brotherhood and the unity of Muslim Ummah. It is also bound to hurt the sentiments of the besieged people of Gaza Strip since 2005. Ongoing land, air and sea blockade has virtually forced two million Palestinians to starve. Their dwellings have been reduced to rubble. Hundreds of unarmed civilians, including budding youths, nascent children, and young women have been killed by armed forces in local conflicts, defying internationally recognised rules of war and the human rights of non-combatants. Many have been made disabled, destitute and scores pushed into jails. How will they feel confident and relieved at this “showing of solidarity” while waves of Israeli military offensive are unabated and Palestinians are being denied even humanitarian assistance?
They are also barred at will from entering Masjid al-Aqsa for offering Salat, punished even for a peaceful protest against the occupation of Jerusalem and desecration of the Aqsa Mosque. But certain Arab rulers do not hesitate to call them “terrorists” and make charity donations for them as a criminal offence. The need of the hour is, the 22 member states, unitedly take a stand, for freeing Palestine from the occupying power.
As Zeina Khodr reported for Al-Jazeera from Algiers, “This regional organisation is deeply divided and polarised.” She added, “They were very careful” in deliberations and in drafting the final communiqué. “We heard leaders express support for the Palestinians and their right to statehood, but no condemnation of Israel.”
In his opening remarks on November 1, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune (عبد المجيد تَبُّون) pledged to put forth considerable efforts to reaffirm support for Palestinians as the Arab and international communities’ attention shifts to other conflicts and crises. He said, “Our main and first cause, the mother of all causes, the Palestinian issue, will be at the heart of our concerns and our main priority.” We wish him success, as world attention is focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The communiqué also reiterated past summit positions, calling for full membership for the Palestinian Authority in the UNO; protection of the Muslim sites in Jerusalem. Calls for resolving the conflicts in Syria and Libya were also given. The summit endorsed the Yemeni council fighting against the Houthis.
RETURN OF NETANYAHU
It is noteworthy that this conference was held at a time when worries of Palestinians grew with the return of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s P.M. He will include the far-right alliance, Religious Zionism, in a coalition government. The general perception is: “Netanyahu doesn’t really want peace at all. He only wants destruction, we all know him and the disasters he can bring over the Palestinian people,” as a native of Nabulus Kandakji expressed.
He said, “And now with the even more extremist faction, we also know Ben-Gvir very well from his actions in Jerusalem,” said the young Palestinian, referring to Itamar Ben-Gvir, one of the leaders of the Religious Zionism alliance. He further said, “He creates a lot of tension.”
Ayat Bustami, a young Palestinian woman, also echoed similar sentiments. “Ben-Gvir does not invoke anything good.” She said, “I want to be optimistic, but it’s increasingly difficult.” Another citizen, Randa Jaish, added, “It’s just getting bleaker every day.”
[The writer is Chairman of Forum for Civil Rights. mail: [email protected]]