Live Blogging: WEF Preludes

الأحد 18 أيار 2008

Reviewing Bush’s speech from earlier on, I have to say, it was probably one of the most hypocritical speeches I’ve heard in a while. He switched between talking about establishing a Palestinian state before the end of his term, something which one participant later discredited as fantasy in the following session, and then talked about women’s rights in the region. I couldn’t see the exact connection and I think it fell flat on most people as well. Here’s an interesting excerpt:

“We must stand with the people of Lebanon in their struggle to build a sovereign and independent democracy. This means opposing Hezbollah terrorists, funded by Iran, who recently revealed their true intentions by taking up arms against the Lebanese people. It is now clearer than ever that Hezbollah militias are the enemy of a free Lebanon — and all nations, especially neighbors in the region, have an interest to help the Lebanese people prevail. (Applause.) ”

….And every peaceful nation in the region has an interest in opposing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. To allow the world’s leading sponsor of terror to gain the world’s deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)”

No one applauded. Suffice to say, the swipes at Hizballah, Iran and Syria throughout the speech were not of interest to anyone in the room. The basis of the speech was really on political reform in the Arab world, as pointed out by international press. However the way it was delivered and the content was essentially saying: do things our way, and we’ll have your back.

The first plenary session that followed the speeches focused on sustainable development and a hyperlinked world. Khalid Abdulla-Janahi was one participant who was a bit refreshing in what he had to say, in a blunt and direct way. He took the opportunity to call Bush’s promise of a Palestinian state by the year’s end as what it is: fantasy, and he also plugged a relative’s name that Bush mentioned in his speech as well: Huda Janahi, who I never heard of, but is worth googling.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, was also on the panel, discussing the more hyperlinked aspect of sustainable development, and he was a pretty interesting guy.

Next, we attended what was the highlight of the day: a 25 minute Q&A session with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. We had prepared a pretty interesting question before hand and with only three of us attending this particular session, we decided to all ask the same question to increase our chances of actually getting picked in such a tight jammed session. The question was actually very specific and was related to Israeli hypocrisy in claiming to be pro-peace while continuing the occupation, however we listed the number of colonies, settlements, military bases, and checkpoints by exact figures to empower the question. Livni is very good at sidestepping questions, and she was generally pressed by the audience to answer many difficult questions. Her answers were incredibly dehumanizing to Palestinians, if not Arabs in general. She whitewashed any role Israeli occupation plays in the suffering of Palestinians and focused mainly on “little kids who wear bombs and kill our little kids”. It was also horrible to see her sidestep any questions related to establishing a Palestinian state in accordance with Bush’s “vision”, in a manner that emphasized her general disbelief in the reality of such a vision (as the Chief Negotiator for Israel) as well as her constant place of the responsibility for anything, on the Palestinians.

And not all Palestinians though. Livni made it clear that there are now two Palestines: the West Bank, as lead by Abu Mazen who Israel wants to negotiate with, and Gaza, which is lead by a terrorist organization Israel will never talk to. It is reflective of growing Israeli language concerning these two territories, further driving a wedge between them: a wedge they geographically created and a wedge Palestinians politically expanded.

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