Omani minister visits Jerusalem
Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah toured Jerusalem, Abu Dis and Jericho, met with officials and activists, and brought with him Omani incense for Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This at a time when Qatari media is instigating campaigns against those thinking of making such visits or even supporting them. When we see Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah in Jerusalem, we do not feel disturbed because Omani politicians and media do not contradict their own country’s policy.
But Qatar has been engaged in such diplomatic activities since 1996, while threatening any government that would dare do the same. It launched a campaign against Egypt’s government because the grand mufti visited Jerusalem, and against Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, because he denounced the Holocaust.
Oman has its own independent policy. In the mid-1990s, it opened a commercial Israeli office in Muscat, then closed it during the second Palestinian uprising. But Qatar pursues a hypocritical policy of double standards, trading and dealing with Israelis at all levels, but accusing Arab governments and organizations of treason for any dealings with Israeli bodies.
Arab League should end the Arab boycott of the Palestinians, and take a clear stance against incitement from countries such as Qatar and Iran.
It has also formed an evil alliance with Iran, threatening regional countries via provocative policies such as supporting radical Islamist groups — including Al-Qaeda, Daesh and Al-Nusra Front — and bullying moderate forces in the Middle East.
Oman has not protested or incited. Its policies may not always be compatible with those of most countries in the region, but this is its choice, and we respect that because it respects the choices of others. Oman is being courageous in dealing directly with forces on the ground in Palestine and Israel.
“We have to encourage our Arab brothers, wherever they are, to come to Palestine,” said Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah. “He who hears it is not like the one who sees. They are now required to visit the Palestinians.” Some may say he is the most experienced Arab foreign minister, and so does not need to go there to know what is happening.
But all Arab ministers should go to the occupied Palestinian territories, meet with officials and activists, and understand what is happening first-hand, instead of theorizing in air-conditioned conference rooms in Cairo and elsewhere. One of the greatest mistakes of Arab politics is to boycott the Palestinians by claiming it is a boycott of Israel.
In response to the surprise of some pro-Qatar parties, it is important to distinguish between what Doha has been doing — including bullying and inciting while maintaining a strong relationship with Israel — and what Muscat has done.
There is a big difference, and the Arab League should adopt Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah’s call to visit Palestine. The league should also end the Arab boycott of the Palestinians, and take a clear stance against incitement from countries such as Qatar and Iran.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published.
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