Nov 16, 2013


We just concluded a conference “Euro-Arab dialogue in the twenty first century: Towards a common vision.” Some 350 representatives from 52 countries were there: government ministers, politicians, writers, academics, journalists, and only a handful of grass-root activists. The opening session was at the European Parliament headquarters in Bussels. The second day was in a fancy hotel.  The sponsoring foundation was Al-Babtain Foundation which was established by Arab businessman and poet Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain. Al-Babtain has a number of philanthropic activities and tries to involve Arabs of varied backgrounds.  The spokeswoman on behalf of the EU Parliament welcomed us and indicated the importance for dialogue to advance democracy, understanding and peace. 

The foundation gave an award to Avi Shlaim an Israeli British academic who was born in Iraq and is one of the group of new historians who showed that the Zionist version of the Nakba of 1948 is certainly mythology. We benefited from useful discussions outside of the formal presentations.  The formal presentations had some good speakers (for example the previous foreign minister of Malta Mr. Michael Frendo) and some not so good (e.g. an EU person who gave an condescending lecture and a Lebanese who blamed our ills not on Israel but on Iran!).  The old orientalism ideas are expected but it is more disappointing to hear Arab defeatist subservience on occasion reinforcing Sykes-Picot and other colonialist ideas of divide and conquer.  But there were many decent good voices including from the sponsors.  The elephant in the room that could not be ignored was Israel despite attempts to deflect this by talking about Iran.  I was pleased that many people (though not many current politicians) voiced strongly the fact that  the key to peace in the Arab world and in Europe is justice for the Palestinian people.

The hospitality was superb at the conference and the food was excellent.  We did have time to network with some important intellectuals and to visit a few key other landmarks in this amazing and beautiful city. I had time to visit the natural history museum and network with colleagues on issues of biodiversity. I wished we met in a less fancy place and saved the money to help needy people.  Syrian refugees for example are reported to be selling their kidneys so that they can survive.  Gaza was not mentioned in any of the speeches even though the news is that the electricity cut off is plunging 1.6 million people into the Middle Ages and in some places sewage is now filling streets. Israeli occupiers also continue attacks on Palestinians and on  holy sites especially Jerusalem (one of the most important cities in the Arab world). Some of the attendees were concerned as we talked to them. From Palestine itself, it was me and the minister of culture Dr. Anwar Abuaisheh (a humble decent man, different from many other Palestinian authority figures).

Now back in Palestine, I am amazed at the number of delegations visiting here.  I am speaking to two or three visiting delegations every day. Good people who will go back to their countries to work for peace with justice.

In photos: Gaza Strip plunged into darkness as fuel runs out
….A major waste water treatment plant in al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City failed on Wednesday, leading sewage to flood the streets of the neighborhood and blocking passage for residents through the city's darkened alleyways.

Someday - Song for Palestine: Music and Lyrics By Finian Cunningham - Video produced by Debbie Menon at MyCatBirdSeat. This video and song pays tribute to the incredible resilience and steadfastness of the Palestinians in their struggle for justice and end to apartheid and occupation of their homeland.

Uri Avneri, a seasoned Israeli politician on the assassination of Yasser Arafat

The choice is revealingly simple. Stop funding genocide in the Middle East or start feeding Americans.

American Intifada: Shaking Off Six Decades of Deceit

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