FOUR years ago, when the PLO and Arab governments were racing to make peace with the Zionist entity, millions of Muslims - Arabs as well as others - despaired of ever being able to liberate Palestine and dismantle the Jewish state. At times, it seemed that Israel had succeeded in subduing the Arab world and gaining access to the Muslim world, thanks to the rush for ‘normalising relations’. However, the unravelling of the ‘peace process’ has, contrary to the fears of some and expectations of others, only proven beyond doubt that Zionism has no future in the region.
The extremely hostile attitude of Arab intellectuals towards Israel has been reported by Thomas Friedman in a recent issue of the Herald Tribune. Bearing in mind particularly the Egyptian and Moroccan intelligentsia, he expressed astonishment at the division in the Arab world between states and civil societies on the question of peace-making with Israel.
Friedman, who is not expected to understand this phenomenon, accurately observes that the unions of ‘Arab doctors, lawyers and writers - who are by the way proper representative bodies - have thus far refused to reconcile themselves to Israel, even though their regimes - which are non-representative or undemocratic - have.
It is ironic that the ‘peace process’ which is supposed to bring the so-called peoples of the region closer together has only gone to aggravate the depth of suspicion and rejection that the Arab masses feel towards west. It is more and more confirmed that this peace is nothing else but the same old imperialism clothed in a new garb.
Whether governments have anything to do with some recent initiatives to ‘normalise relations’ with Israel or not, the makers of such initiatives succeeded only in casting light on a situation the Israelis, their peace partners and American sponsors hate to acknowledge. The people, that is the free and independent members of ‘the Arab and Muslim communities’ perceive Israelis not as neighbours or friends or even business partners, but colonial occupiers.
Last month, a Jordanian company sponsored an Israeli industrial fair in Amman, the capital. The government pointedly explained it had nothing to do with the fair, and that it was obliged by the treaty with Israel to allow the trade fair to be held -even to ensure security arrangements. Representatives of trade unions, popular associations and political parties protested, demonstrated and succeeded in thwarting the project. Few people visited the fair. Senior officials staved away to spare themselves the shame and humiliation a visit to the fair might have brought them.
On his recent brief visit to Jordan Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was accorded an official reception but told that his policies on Jerusalem and settlement expansion were not conducive to peace. For the Jordanians to tell Netanyahu just this is all expression of ‘anxiety not only at what the Likud government is doing but also an indication of an ever widening rift between the government and the people of Jordan.
Some may be tempted to think little of Jordan, regarding it to be a tiny and insignificant entity that was carved out in its present shape after the destruction of ‘the Ottoman caliphate, for no purpose other than to act as a buffer between a new Zionist entity and the eastern wing of the Islamic Ummah. However, what goes on in Jordan is very significant, if nothing else, it is indicative of the prevailing mood of Arabs worldwide.
Lutfi Al-Kholi, an Egyptian writer, recently led a group of Arabs for a meeting with a group of Israelis in Copenhagen. The original aim was to find ‘an alliance for peace’. Having failed to muster support from Arab intellectuals, the Copenhagen declaration spoke of cooperation for the promotion of the peace process.
The debate that ensued within Arab intellectual circles inside and outside the Arab world in the aftermath of this contrived promotion for the ‘peace process’ has delivered a powerful message to the Copenhagen team and to the Arab governments embroiled in ‘peace’-making with Israel. While Jews hounded elsewhere in Russia and Europe and they had always had a welcome haven in Islamic lands, this new nation of illegal immigrants was something different. People welcome friends and neighbours, not settlers and occupiers.
Is the kind of ‘peace’ that is sought to be imposed over the Arabs and Palestinians ever likely to endure? Not unless the process is turned into a genuine process to uphold justice, rights and international legality. Even the most pro-Israelis among Arab intellectuals insist that Israel must first recognise the rights of the Palestinians and concede the principle of withdrawing from the occupied territories.
Yet for all their unilateral desire to accommodate an Israeli entity within the territories it occupied in 1948, they wonder whether the zionists will ever pull out from the occupied territories and recognise the rights of the Palestinians. The Palestinians are not only Yasir Arafat and his men; they are more than six million people, more than three quarters of whom are dispersed around the world, mainly in refugee camps set up in neighbouring Arab countries. Can Israel ever be repentant, and in what way?
It is becoming clear more than ever before that all that the Zionists want out of ‘peace process’ is more than 70%’of the Palestinian land and turn the entire Arab world into an extended market for their cultural and colonial enterprise. This is what has been driving Arab intellectuals to speak ever more loudly against what they perceive as a plain lie.
The peace process in this sense, some people argue, may not after all be entirely bad! It takes this much for some people to see the truth, and seeing is believing. A recent television talk show hosted by Hamdi Qandil featured him addressing the Israelis: ‘Recognise our rights first and withdraw from occupied Palestine; we promise that once you’ve done, we shall name a street in every town a ‘Peace Road’; we shall open a square in the heart of each town and call it the ‘Peace Square’; and we shall erect in the centre of each square a tall obelisk by the name of ‘Peace Obelisk’ for all peace promoters to sit on.’
Qandil’s remarks, cynical or not, caused many listeners to burst into laughter. The obelisk in this context may be what is known in Egyptian Arabic as khazooq, and this is what the entire ‘peace process has’ been so far, a khazooq - a sharp thing touching your back!
Courtesy: Impact International, London.
Muslimedia - April 1-15, 1997