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Use the oil weapon if you really want to help the people of Gaza

November 23, 2023 at 5:32 pm

A man hugs the lifeless body of a child as the Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks are taken out of the mortuary of Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Hospital for burial in Deir al Balah, Gaza on November 22, 2023 [Mustafa Hassona – Anadolu Agency]

It is really just pretence, nothing more. How else can we describe what the Arab countries have done, so far, in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and the people of Gaza, in particular, in their new plight that far exceeds everything that has befallen them in the history of the Arab-Zionist conflict? The lack of proportionality between the magnitude of the ongoing killing and destruction – which international human rights activists have come to describe as a war of genocide and displacement, two crimes against humanity committed by the State of Israel in the context of documented war crimes that have become difficult to count due to their large number – the lack of proportionality between these crimes and the Arab reaction is so blatant, that its resonance is louder than screaming that reaches our ears from inside the Gaza Strip.

What has the Arab reaction been, so far? Jordan and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from the State of Israel, without even announcing the freezing of their relations with it, let alone severing them. This is nothing more than trying to take any blame off them, while Egypt and Morocco did not even do this very bare minimum and still have not withdrawn their ambassadors. As for the UAE, it is closer to Israel than to Hamas due to its well-known hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which the movement descends. Ultimately, what the Arab countries have done, so far, is less than what Latin America, which is far from the scene of the conflict, has done, as four South American countries withdrew their ambassadors: Bolivia (which also announced the severing of relations), Colombia, Chile and Honduras.

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It is true that an Arab and Islamic summit was also held in Riyadh, but no practical decision was issued, other than sending a delegation to visit the capitals of the permanent members of the UN Security Council to urge them to demand a ceasefire. This move does not match the seriousness and urgency of what is happening in Gaza, as there will be nothing left for Israel to shoot at if they wait too long. What is the reason for this sluggishness, which is almost equivalent to indifference? Is it that the Arab countries are so helpless in the face of what is happening that they cannot do anything more than symbolic gestures? Is not Iran’s position a confirmation of this inability, as it is content in not taking any action, other than verbal threats?

The truth is that the Arab countries and, specifically those that export fuel, are not in a weak state today. They are actually much stronger than they were half a century ago, when they decided to boycott the countries supporting Israel during the October 1973 War. At that time, Arab exporters were technically dependent on Western companies and militarily dependent on Western countries for their protection in the world of the Cold War. Today, they have a high degree of economic independence, and they have friendly and strong relations with the three poles of the new Cold War, namely the US, China and Russia.

Moreover, the fuel market has been declining for two months, and prices are on their way to returning to what they were before the escalation of the crisis around Ukraine in 2021. Since last year, Saudi Arabia has shown a willingness to work to raise prices by reducing its production in agreement with Russia, despite Washington’s strong protest and the anger of other Western countries. However, Riyadh has not yet shown any willingness to use the “oil weapon”, despite the Zionist war of genocide and displacement, and despite the fact that such a position would be welcomed by Russia and Iran, as it serves their economic interests.

Tehran has, in fact, called for an oil boycott, which is the only weapon that is not expensive to use, but rather profitable! It is true that this is an easy position (Iran is not an exporter to Western countries due to the embargo imposed on it) and it also falls within an attempt to “shift the blame” from Tehran and place it on the Arab countries, but the latter has not cared, so far, which makes it bear a share of the responsibility for the ongoing genocide, given that the “oil weapon” is its most effective weapon to pressure Western countries to force Israel to cease fire.

Instead, Amos Hochstein, Deputy Assistant to President Joe Biden and Senior Adviser for Energy and Investment told Financial Times newspaper on 20 November that he is confident that the Arab oil countries will not “weaponise energy” and that “the level of collaboration between the US and Gulf producers, including Saudi Arabia, had been very strong over the past two years.” Hochstein was born in the State of Israel, holds Israeli citizenship as well as the American citizenship, and served in its army. I do not think the matter requires further comment.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds on 21 November, 2023. 

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