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Gaza between Latin American solidarity and Arab deceit

After almost one month of unspeakable Israeli savagery, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has finally decided to break his silence on Gaza. While some may say it is better late than never, others insist that it's too little too late. Whichever way it is viewed, the grudging official Arab response to the Israeli aggression is a far cry from the emphatic reactions from Latin America.

Collectively, the failure of the League of Arab States to convene a summit on Gaza was not simply a dereliction of duty but even complicity with the aggressor. Its members' inaction is nothing but a betrayal of their treaty of joint defence which reads, in part: "The Contracting States consider any [act of] armed aggression made against any one or more of them or their armed forces, to be directed against them all."

Where are the signatories who pledged that, "in accordance with the right of self-defence, individually and collectively, they undertake to go without delay to the aid of the State or States against which such an act of aggression is made, and immediately to take, individually and collectively, all steps available, including the use of armed force, to repel the aggression and restore security and peace"?

Although the Palestinians never expected a military response from the decrepit regional organisation, it goes without saying that there should have been an appropriate response given the scale of the crimes committed in Gaza.

Not one capital, for example, has had the courage to do as much as even threaten an oil embargo on countries supporting Israel. At a time when relations with Russia are at an all-time low and the flow of Russian gas to the west hangs in the balance, the timing seems perfect to exact political concessions from Israel's western allies.

That is not likely to happen in the immediate future. In the case of Saudi Arabia, even if it feels that it is incapable of making such a stance as was done in 1973, it could have easily ordered Egypt's Al-Sisi regime to lift the criminal siege of Gaza and allow its people to live normal lives. Sadly, even that is too much for Riyadh.

It is no wonder, therefore, that Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and his aides have continued to gloat about their emerging strategic alliance with "moderate" Arab states in the fight against "terrorism". That, of course, is the west's and Israel's inaccurate euphemism for legitimate Palestinian resistance to a brutal occupation.

Having lost the military campaign as well as the battle for global public opinion, Israel claims that it is fighting Hamas, which the United States and the European Union view as a terrorist organisation. It took offence at the stand taken by several Latin American countries, claiming that they were once plagued by terrorist groups and should therefore stand by the government in Tel Aviv.

This simplistic approach did not wash in Latin America where five countries – Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru – recalled their ambassadors from Israel. After the 2008-09 attack on Gaza, two countries, Venezuela and Bolivia, broke diplomatic ties with Israel. One common thread running through these responses is that Israel's systematic and deliberate targeting of civilians in Gaza is both unacceptable and unjustified.

Not for the first time Israel's isolation and pariah status was confirmed on 23 July when 29 members of the UN Human Rights Council voted to investigate its onslaught on Gaza. Only one country, the United States, voted against the resolution; no surprise there.

Will the Palestinian Authority now take advantage of this groundswell of support? Will it accede to the Rome Treaty and thereafter take its case to the International Criminal Court? Despite popular demands from his people to do just this President Mahmoud Abbas continues to procrastinate, leaving many to conclude that he is also complicit in the aggression on Gaza.

Back in October 2009, the PA took the controversial decision to delay a vote by the Human Rights Council to endorse the Goldstone Report. It chose instead to accept a US document that nullified the PA's opportunity to prosecute Israeli officials at the ICC. The American document stated: "The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere."

Clearly the failure to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity is not because the process is exceptionally difficult. It is simply because there is a lack of political will on the part of the Ramallah authority.

However, the PA is not alone. In most of the 22 countries that make up the Arab League there is a staggering lack of political leadership. Unlike Latin America, where political leaders feel committed and accountable to their people, in the Middle East it's all about protecting personal and family fiefdoms. Any claims to the contrary are deceitful. It is no wonder that over the past six decades the League and its members have failed to achieve what the resistance in Gaza has done in one month.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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