by Waseem Shehzad (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 36, No. 2, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1428)
Although they are usually secretive in their dealings, the Saudis are showing far too much political activism these days to go unnoticed. The Arab League is holding its summit in Riyadh on March 28-29 (after Crescent press time), and the top item on the agenda is the Arab regimes’ desire to recognise Israel. There is an equally bizarre move afoot to “contain” the growing strength of Islamic Iran as a result of the overthrow of Saddam Husain, the US military defeat in Iraq, Israel’s defeat at the hands of Hizbullah last summer and Hamas’s electoral victory in Occupied Palestine. All these are viewed as having enhanced Iran’s power and prestige because the defeat of the US in Iraq has made it appear weak; it is now looking to Iran to bail it out. Developments inLebanon and Palestine have demonstrated yet again that Arab regimes are America’s puppets and have been divested of any remaining shreds of dignity.
The Saudis, however, would not dare take on an assignment that did not have Washington’s approval. US President George Bush is so hated that were he to genuinely attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there would be few takers. The Muslims would not support such a move; hence the Saudis’ decision to act as a front for him. To be fair, the Saudis (or more precisely then crown prince and now king Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz) had first proposed recognition of Israel in return for its withdrawal to the 1967 borders at the Arab League summit in Beirut in March 2002. Israel, then ruled by Ariel Sharon, better known as the Butcher of Beirut, rejected the proposal out of hand. Last summer, while Sharon lay in a coma, Ehud Olmert, the new Israeli prime minister, decided that he would establish his credentials by invading Lebanon and smashing Hizbullah. Instead, the Israeli army was thrust back and Olmert was left dangerously weakened. Mired in scandal, Olmert is destined for the political dustbin, but the Americans believe they can rescue him by persuading the Saudis to resuscitate their defunct peace plan. This would give Olmert something to hold onto without the Palestinians getting anything in return.
The driving force behind the Saudi plan is Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to Washington and currently his country’s national security chief. Bandar secretly met with the Israelis and the Jordanians last October and got their blessings to revive the plan. King Abdullah of Jordan has been huffing and puffing about Iran’s increasing power, and stoking sectarian prejudices in order to undermine Iran’s standing in the region. Except for a tiny minority of government sycophants, who are always ready to advance any attempt, however disreputable, to keep the Muslims divided and confused, few others have any need or desire for such divisive activities, especially coming from someone like Abdullah. While the Saudis and the Jordanians are bitter rivals—it dates back to their days of treachery against the Muslims in the 1920s, when they both competed for the position of Britain’s most obedient puppets—they seem to set aside their rivalries whenever there is an opportunity to undermine Islam and betray Muslims. At the US’s urging, there is now even a “moderate” axis comprising Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to counter the power represented by the unofficial Iran-Syria-Hizbullah-Hamas alliance. Muslims have no use for such divisive labels as “moderate” and “extremist”; the former is used for the West’s puppets and the latter for those who refuse to bow to it.
Writing in a Lebanese paper, the Daily Star (March 20, 2007), Nawaf W. Tell, president of the Free Thought Forum in Amman and a researcher at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, lamented: “The main features of the Arab state system today are its fragility and fragmentation, largely due to the deficiency created by the Syrian presence in the Iranian camp and the absence of Iraq as a regional player. The emergence of the Saudi role at the forefront may compensate significantly for these deficiencies.” According to this strategic thinker from Jordan, the main problem facing the Arab world is the absence of Syria from their ranks and the removal of Saddam from power. There is not a word about Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, nor about its brutal policies against the Palestinians, not to mention the cowardice, corruption and incompetence of Arab rulers, nor their subservience to the US. Iran’s crime is that it supports the Palestinians’ struggle against the zionist aggressors, as well as supporting Hizbullah to defend Lebanon’s honour and dignity, something the Arab regimes have demonstrably failed to do for decades.
But Iran is not interested in playing a spoiler’s game. It is anxious to restore Muslim dignity, but this will not be achieved by appeasing Uncle Sam or the zionist usurpers of Palestine. True honour comes with standing up for truth and justice. In Lebanon Hizbullah has demanded the resignation of the illegal Fu’ad Siniora government, which now stands fully exposed as a US puppet. Even as the zionists were driven out of South Lebanon, they littered villages and farms with millions of cluster-bombs that continue to kill Lebanese civilians and children. These constitute war crimes, yet there is not even a whisper from the Arab rulers about charging Israeli and American rulers with such barbaric practices. Instead, they keep on harping about the non-existent threat from Islamic Iran. Can they name even one country that Iran has invaded in the last 250 years?
Based on this non-existent Iranian threat, the Arab regimes are getting together to seek an alliance with Israel in which the interests of the Palestinians will be sacrificed yet again, provided that the current Arab rulers are allowed to remain in power. While the Israelis say they find some “positive” elements in the Saudi proposal, as did foreign minister Tzipi Livni, they have also made it clear that they find certain points unacceptable. These include Israel’s return to the 1967 borders, the return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN resolution 194 (passed in 1948), and East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. The Saudis have indicated that they are prepared to accept modifications to their plan, including the right of return. A contender for the Kaduma party leadership to replace the unpopular and scandal-plagued Olmert, Livni wants to place herself front and centre in Israeli politics. Despite her silver tongue and striking looks, she will not play soft in a society that admires butchers and murderers and has a rapacious appetite for expansionism. Without consulting the Palestinians, the Saudis have indicated that the refugee issue can be addressed either by settling them in other countries or by paying them ‘compensation’, presumably by the Arab regimes on behalf of Israel.
Hamas, the most popular Palestinian party, is under pressure to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept all agreements signed by Fatah, although no such demands are being made of Israel. Presumably it is entitled to kill Palestinian children, women and men or starve them while itself refusing even to define its own borders. Hamas must accept an Israel without borders (an historic first), but Israel has no obligation to recognise any Palestinian state. Under international law, recognition is granted by one state to another; the Palestinians do not have a state and are unlikely to get one in the near future because of Israel’s intransigence, so why is there so much pressure on Hamas to “recognise” Israel? Besides, Fatah recognised Israel under the Oslo Accords of 1993 yet got nothing in return despite written promises by Israel. So why Hamas should go down the same route is not at all clear.
These Israeli demands, endlessly parroted by Western governments and the media, become even more nonsensical when the Palestinians are told that they must recognise Israel’s right to exist. In other words, the Palestinians must accept Israel’s right to steal their land, expel them from their homes and villages, and confer legitimacy on such acts. No indigenous population has ever been subjected to such ludicrous demands, not even the Aboriginal peoples of North America and Australia: only the Palestinians must surrender all their rights, including the right to existence and survival.
Although the Palestinians have refused to sign their own death warrant, this feat is to be accomplished by the Arab rulers’ get-together in Riyadh. Treachery runs in their blood, and they are living down to their reputation with great enthusiasm. The choice facing Muslims is simple: unless we get rid of these corrupt and incompetent rulers and establish Islamic states, we will never have any real peace or prosperity, much less dignity and honour.