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Qatar's diplomacy amid the Gaza genocide provides an evolving framework for peace-building

December 20, 2023 at 6:02 pm

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini (L) and Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (R) on December 10, 2023 [SALIM MATRAMKOT/AFP via Getty Images]

The ongoing genocide in Gaza represents a grim culmination of Israel’s violent settler-colonialism, signalling a pivotal moment in the historical oppression of Palestine and its people. While some attribute this current tragedy solely to the events of 7 October, it is crucial to acknowledge the decades of persistent violations of international laws and human rights by Israel. The attempt to frame the events of 7 October as ahistorical and apolitical is a narrow perspective. The evident genocidal intent of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and political leadership permeates public discourse, with Palestinian children in particular dehumanised and vilified.

Recent statements by the head of northern Israel’s Metula Council calling for the complete destruction of Gaza, citing Auschwitz concentration camp, reveal starkly Israel’s extreme genocidal objectives, violating various laws and human rights principles in the process. Despite Israel’s history of multiple human rights violations, the international community’s discourse and narrative have begun to shift, although the immediate impact on saving lives remains a challenge as Palestinian children and women continue to be killed daily.

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Prominent figures, including heads of state and political figures across the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia, openly denounce the ongoing genocide, and call it as such. Global pressure from esteemed academic institutions like Harvard, North Carolina Chapel Hill and Cambridge University reflects solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Respected academic figures including Norman Finkelstein, Usama Makdisi, Khalid Beydoun and Jairo Funez-Flores actively challenge the myths surrounding Israel’s settler-colonialism and its continuous violence against Palestinians. Academia, far from being apolitical, plays a pivotal role in shaping ideologies, influencing policy-making and framing the state-society discourse, thereby impacting global conflicts and the dissemination of knowledge.

Moreover, negotiations and humanitarian aid have emerged as crucial elements in addressing serious events like genocide and conflict resolution. The current situation marks a transitional phase in international politics, prompting a re-evaluation of conflict resolution mechanisms. The US, traditionally perceived as a global leader in human rights and peace-brokering, has fallen from grace. Key political figures, including President Joe Biden, have not only provided physical support to Israel, but also endorsed its actions socio-politically and discursively. The encouragement from Western allies to “give them hell” has drawn criticism, making the US and the UK, among others, accountable for their perceived complicity in the ongoing genocide.

This crisis has exposed global paradoxes, double standards and a collective amnesia perpetuated by dominant Western narratives in the media. The international community is grappling with the discrepancies between professed values and actual actions, necessitating a critical re-evaluation of its stance and policies in the face of such humanitarian crises.

The biased and unwavering support of the US for Israel has resulted in the vetoing of any UN resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza. This has exposed the limitations of Western states as traditional “honest brokers” for peace, challenging their claim to the moral high ground. Contrary to expectations, the small Gulf state of Qatar has emerged as a key player in crisis mediation and conflict resolution between Israel and Hamas. Despite the normalisation of relations between several Middle Eastern countries and the Zionist state, Qatar has remained supportive of Palestine, in the face of criticism from several Western countries and accompanying defamation campaigns.

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Qatar’s success in mediating between Hamas leaders and Israel in the midst of a complex situation underscores its effectiveness in international politics. The ongoing negotiations led by Qatar, culminating in a humanitarian pause on 24 November and an exchange of prisoners, were intricate and challenging. Behind-the-scenes sources have revealed the difficulties faced during the talks. Negotiating between parties with no diplomatic ties demands strength, patience, expertise and political acumen, especially when dealing with an illegal occupier like Israel, which has openly threatened multiple stakeholders.

Looking ahead, it becomes evident that countries like Qatar, with their size, progressive leadership and strategic geopolitical role, are poised to take the lead in future peace negotiations and conflict resolution globally. The current situation also highlights the necessity to develop more literature and focus on what can be termed the “Doha Peace Negotiation Model”. The aftermath of these negotiations calls for the creation of a new model based on Qatar’s effective mediation, for the benefit of policymakers, academics, experts and students of international affairs.

The geopolitical landscape is no longer bipolar, and small states such as Qatar have demonstrated the ability to bypass former regional hegemons Egypt and Turkey, offering pathways to peace during critical conflicts. This paradigm shift underscores the evolving dynamics of global diplomacy and the role of smaller nations in shaping international relations.

The tragic events in Gaza have underscored the shortcomings, vulnerability and ineffectiveness of international institutions like the UN and UNRWA in safeguarding civilians and providing urgent humanitarian aid during critical times. Israel’s deliberate targeting of schools, hospitals, mosques and even UN staff in Gaza has revealed the urgent need for global peace-building institutions and diplomats to fulfil their duties and responsibilities. The silence of many institutions implies a tacit acceptance of Israeli atrocities.

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In contrast, we’ve witnessed the remarkable initiative of Lolwah Al-Khater, Qatar’s Minister of State for International Cooperation, who became the first minister to visit Gaza in recent weeks. Her actions not only set an unprecedented example for female leaders globally, but also offer a practical demonstration of effective diplomacy. Recognising the risks associated with visits to Gaza, her on-the-ground presence highlighted the essence of genuine leadership, emphasising that real leaders engage directly rather than operate solely from distant offices. This stands as a testament to the principles of foreign policy and politics.

In the contemporary landscape, wars are no longer confined to physical battlegrounds; they also encompass information wars, involving narratives, discourse, information dissemination, media and lobbying. Amid this evolving and complex nature of conflict, it is crucial to use accurate language consistently to address the situation. The ongoing genocide in Gaza is an extension of Israel’s decades-old settler-colonialism in Palestine. While an ideal world would witness Palestine’s freedom and the justice it deserves, we must grapple with the paradoxical realities we face. The current priority revolves increasingly around saving as many lives as possible, which is a formidable challenge. Hence, the mastery of diplomacy and the effectiveness of peace negotiations become more imperative than ever. As numerous colleagues and individuals in the streets recognise the pivotal role played by Qatar in mediating peace, it becomes crucial to document and acknowledge this as an evolving framework for regional and global peace-building in the future.

READ: Senior UK Conservative MPs call on government to push for Gaza ceasefire amid Israeli atrocities

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