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The latest Arab Summit and the ongoing Palestinian catastrophes

May 21, 2024 at 10:18 am

Leaders pose for a family photo as they attend the 33rd Arab League Summit in Manama, Bahrain on 16 May, 2024 [Qatar Amiri Diwan/Anadolu Agency ]

I was hoping that the latest Arab Summit, the thirty-third, which the Kingdom of Bahrain hosted for the first time, would be called the “Gaza Summit” in keeping with King Salman Bin Abdulaziz calling the twenty-ninth Arab gathering the “Jerusalem Summit” in 2018. “Let everyone near and far know that Palestine and its people are in the hearts of all Arabs and Muslims,” said the Saudi king, who then donated $150 million to support Islamic endowments in Jerusalem.

Is it mere coincidence that the Bahrain summit coincided with the 76th anniversary of the 1948 Nakba, which was followed by repeated catastrophes and setbacks until we reached the Gaza Nakba? In 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced in an act of mass ethnic cleansing. Today, we have witnessed the Zionists displacing two million residents of Gaza since 7 October, and more than 800,000 since the start of the attack on Rafah.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel has killed 134,000 Palestinians in occupied Palestine since 1948 and has committed 3,000 massacres.

It has also arrested about a million Palestinians since the Naksa (setback) of June 1967. The Palestinians have experienced many catastrophes over many decades, and they have continued to do so over the past eight months.

The latest summit in Bahrain also coincided with the start of the International Court of Justice sessions to discuss South Africa’s appeal for the court to take new measures against Israel for launching its attack on Rafah. South Africa accused Israel of acting with a sense of impunity, and said that the ICJ must force the occupation state to stick to the court’s interim ruling about Gaza. The South African case lodged at the ICJ in December accused Israel of committing genocide; the lawsuit has since been joined by Egypt, Turkiye, Libya, Nicaragua, Colombia and the Maldives. Ireland and Belgium have announced their intention to do so too.

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Bahrain, of course, normalised relations with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords under the auspices of the US Trump administration in September 2020. In the absence of many front-line leaders at the latest summit, the participants repeated slogans that are not supported by reality, including “the centrality of the Palestinian issue” and “peace is a strategic choice”, even as Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist right-wing thugs shed Palestinian blood and Zionist forces are sweeping into Rafah and massacring the besieged, starving and displaced people of Gaza, who have nowhere safe to flee to. Their choice is between being killed by bombs or starvation, while their brothers on the other side of the Rafah Crossing are watching, and the rest of the Arabs are gathered in Manama, unable to deter the attackers.

In the “Manama Declaration”, the Arab leaders condemned, using the strongest terms, the brutal Israeli aggression against Gaza, and called for measures to stop the Gaza war permanently, release the hostages, stop all attempts at forced displacement, and support Bahrain’s initiatives. They also called for an international conference under the auspices of the UN based on the two-state solution, bringing a just and comprehensive peace to the region and establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It is worth noting that the declaration mentioned the deployment of international peacekeeping forces affiliated with the UN in the Palestinian territories until the two-state solution is implemented.

The summit did not address the report by the Financial Times which claimed that US President Joe Biden urged the Arab countries to be part of the peacekeeping forces in Gaza after the end of Israel’s genocidal war and fill the void so that the PA security forces can manage the Gaza Strip. The US and European countries refuse to commit their forces in Gaza, the demand of the Arab countries which Netanyahu and his extremist government reject.

What would such forces be tasked with? Would they simply be border guards for Israel?

Hamas has announced its rejection of the presence of international forces in the Gaza Strip, but what is the position of the Palestinian Authority? The final summit statement out of Bahrain did not say whether Arab forces would participate alongside the international forces that the Arab leaders called for in Gaza.

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It was shocking that in the midst of the genocidal war, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticised Hamas for carrying out the 7 October attack unilaterally, and thus provided Israel with a justification for its military offensive against the Gaza Strip. One Hamas leader described Abbas’s speech as unfortunate, and said that it basically pardoned Israel for the death and destruction that it has forced on the Palestinians for decades.

The big question which worries everyone is, what about the status and future of Gaza? What will the role of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority be on “the day after” the genocidal war? Who will manage the Gaza Strip amid demands that coincided with the Bahrain summit in Manama from Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to build settlements in Gaza? A split has appeared within the occupation state’s War Cabinet regarding the occupation army remaining in Gaza and the demand for Defence Minister Yoav Gallant to resign.

Moreover, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed was clear in his rejection and denunciation of Netanyahu’s claim that, “The UAE, Saudi Arabia and other countries could help a civilian government from the residents of the Gaza Strip after the war… and could participate in helping a future government in the Gaza Strip after the war.” He criticised this claim in a post on X: “When a Palestinian government is formed which meets the hopes and aspirations of the brotherly Palestinian people, and is distinguished by integrity, competence and independence, the UAE will be fully prepared to provide all forms of support to that government.”

As usual at Arab summits, old water is being poured into new bottles. Neither the Arab states nor our enemies expect the Palestinians to become serious players in the regional equation, so they are not taken seriously.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 19 May 2024

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