By Majd Muhsen
A conference is currently held in Herzliya in occupied Palestine from 29 Jan. – 2 Feb. 2012 on national security. No problem there until you go through the list of speakers and find a number of Arab figures, including Prince Hasan Bin Talal, Saeb Erekat and a number of other speakers from Jordan and Egypt. The great majority of the panelists are Israelis. These have a right to be concerned about their national security. Israel is an occupation and still considered an enemy by most Arabs. The question is, what is the logic behind this Arab participation, especially a high profile one like Prince Hasan Bin Talal’s, who will be giving a keynote speech in the inaugural session via live video conference? Is it that we have a common destiny with the Israeli occupation? Have our concerns and enemies become one all of a sudden and we need to come together in order to survive? What is it with this obsession with talking to the Israelis? For our information, they consider us enemies and mostly disparage us. I cannot blame them. They have not lost sight of what matters to them and are not bought by “peaceful coexistence” rhetoric. The myopia is ours alone.
Another speaker is a Mr. Riad Al-Khouri, who presents himself as a member of the International Council of Questscope in Jordan. Mr. Al-Khouri is scheduled to speak in a session entitled “The Rise of Political Islam across the Middle East: Arab Spring or Islamist Winter,” and will be giving his talk in Herzliya in Occupied Palestine. According to its professed mission, “Questscope is dedicated to transforming the future of vulnerable youth and communities in the Middle East––by equipping them with the resources and hope they need to become compassionate and productive citizens,” where does this fit into this session and the conference as a whole? I have worked in the past with Questscope as a freelance translator and am quite familiar with their programs. This participation runs contrary to all their values and objectives. Not to mention that it is hurtful to the feelings of the beneficiary communities, who are mainly underprivileged, underserved groups, a lot of whom are refugees or from a Palestinian origin. For these communities, Israel is an enemy that occupied their country and pushed them into diaspora. So, in whose name are these people speaking and what is the point of this move?
We should remember some basic information. Israel is an intruding organism that violently occupied and still continues to violently occupy Palestine. None of the issues related to this violent occupation have been resolved, most notably that of refugees. Israelis living the life in occupied Palestine are doing so at the expense of hundreds of thousands of refugees who live in miserable conditions in countries around occupied Palestine and in (all of) Palestine itself.
Since the only means of resistance available to us at the moment are non-violent, we must not undermine these efforts by validating the Israeli occupation. The BDS movement is at the forefront of non-violent resistance and is effectively gaining ground in many parts of world. If we are not part of this movement, let us at least not undermine its work by acknowledging Israel as anything else but an occupier and usurper of land.