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How the Arabs Failed in Bethlehem - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Palestinian Authority failed last week to attract the interest of Arab governments and major economic establishments to help it develop its economy. No one appears to be willing to consider Palestine more than just an issue of political conflict with Israel. The conference’s failure proved that the Palestinians would not get Arab support unless an Israeli shell fell on the Intercontinental Hotel, the conference venue, and Palestinian television showed scenes of bodies, wounded, blood, and shouts. No aid without disasters. This is the only emotional engine. As to the rational engine for confronting the occupation, backing the steadfastness, helping the human being in his daily life, or investing for the future in the occupied territories is something that is totally beyond Arab thinking.

We complain too much that Iran is feeding the Palestinians rockets and explosives and spending liberally on the extremists and the political sabotage plans for its own purposes but what are we giving to the other Palestinian side? Practically, very little. It is not something new when we say that backing the Palestinian right is not just speeches, orations, and conferences but support for the land itself and those sitting on it, a support that does not depend on giving bread, rice, and medicine but also new development plans that help thousands of Palestinians to survive and confront the plans of the Israeli occupier and Arab extremist.

The Palestinian Government last week tried the idea of walking away from its image that has been known for 70 years, an occupied territory, refugees in camps, and occupation forces. It held a relatively large conference in difficult and harsh conditions. Most of those who came and most of the projects offered came from the Westerners whom we accuse of favoring Israel. The Arab side packaged the aid promised in the past and called them real estate projects. The Arabs failed to support the Palestinians in the easiest of the issues and continued to shed tears over them. All that the government planners asked for was support for industries, services, and economic projects that would employ around 50,000 Palestinians, even if these projects were loans if the Arabs were too miserly and did not give them as free grants. Most of what was offered were housing projects for the Palestinians, for which the supporting governments and establishments are thanked. But what is the value of housing the Palestinians without an active economy? Who will buy them and how will he spend his day?

I believe there are many industries which the Arab establishments can support and which can stand on their feet later on, employ thousands of Palestinians, help them to stand fast in their land, and make them do without asking for aid.

I know that the Palestinian prime minister challenged the doubters and held the conference in Bethlehem and not in Amman, Jeddah, or Dubai. He believed the world would understand that the Palestinians’ needs were no less than the needs of any other afflicted country in the world. He was eager to surround the comfortable environment with intensive protection and in the air-conditioned International Hotel’s halls amid the mockery of Israeli correspondents who did not stop asking how could there be investment under war and the fence.

Of course, the Israelis are quite right to doubt the investment because they know that the investor’s correct option is to build a hotel on Tel Aviv’s coast and make profits rather than build an agricultural company in the West Bank. But the primary aim of investment in Palestine is a humanitarian one and also political. Had the masses of Arabs paid the cost of tickets for watching the Palestinian tragedy during the past years in the way they pay for watching horror and comedy movies or renting videos, President Mahmud Abbas would not probably have been in need for a conference to support investments.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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