After the Riyadh statement
A ceasefire is not enough to put out the flames. The oppression that causes the blaze needs to be confronted. Avoiding confronting the heart of the problem turns a ceasefire into a truce and paves the way for a broader conflagration.
This oppression dates back seven decades. The embers of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have been burning since the Nakba. The embers will only die out once the oppression ends. Generations have been born under the occupation or in refugee camps. Many have been killed, but the dream lives on in defiance of its killers.
The stability of a people cannot be secured at the expense of uprooting another. All forms of cosmetics cannot cover up the ugliness of occupation. Oppression cannot be consolidated through destruction and starvation, cutting off electricity, water and internet access, and turning hospitals into mass graves for medical staff, patients and refugees alike.
The West does not have the right to rise up to defend every inch of Ukraine and every Ukrainian child, while turning a blind eye to the masses of dead children in Palestine. The double standards do not douse the blaze, they only add fuel to it. The Palestinians, just like every human on the plant, have the right to live securely in their country. The crime cannot be wrapped up by punishing the murder victim.
A Palestinian state is a national and humanitarian need for the Palestinian people. It is a natural right. The failure to establish it is a blemish on the world’s conscience, particularly the countries that boast massive armies and that hold the UN Security Council hostage with their veto power.
The Palestinian state is also an Arab need because the Arabs have paid hefty prices in this bitter conflict, whether when they joined it or when it spiraled out of control. The absence of a Palestinian state has helped to destabilize the region and has prevented countries from catching their breath.
The Palestinian state is a regional and international need because the countries of the region are better off focusing on development, joining the technological revolution and combating unemployment, poverty and dark, suicidal thoughts. It is an international need because the images of oppression, injustice and brutality breed violence, extremism and terrorism.
The Palestinians, just like every human on the plant, have the right to live securely in their country.
The UNSC does not have the right to remain silent under the rubble of its dignity. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres should not be rebuked for expressing his outrage at the mass killing of children and the massacres. The “world’s only superpower,” which ceaselessly preaches about human rights, does not have the right to justify “the mother of all massacres” with the excuse of “the right to self-defense.” The West does not have the right to abandon international humanitarian law. If the West opposes Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory, then how can it remain silent over one country’s occupation of another?
Israel has repeatedly tried to douse the fire by eliminating the voice of the oppressed. It has tried occupation and incursions and resorted to jets, tanks and assassinations. It pursued and besieged Yasser Arafat. The fire died down for a short while, before burning again later. It assassinated Khalil Al-Wazir, the father of the intifada. The fire again died down before burning again later. It assassinated Ahmed Yassin and several of his comrades, but the fire refused to die.
The world, which was outraged by the racism in South Africa, the horrors of Yugoslavia and the massacres in Rwanda, does not have the right to turn a blind eye to the massacre of today’s era taking place in Palestine.
I thought of all of this as I listened to the statement of the extraordinary Arab-Islamic summit that was held in Riyadh on Saturday. The statement was powerful in its spirit and in its vision of how to douse the flames. It expressed anger and outrage at the oppression, the double standards and the barbaric war being waged by the occupation. The statement was drafted responsibly under the rule of international law and requirements for real peace.
The statement demanded that the UNSC save its role and image and assume the responsibilities that were the reason for it being established in the first place. It demanded respect for international law and respect for people’s faith in rights, laws, justice, dignity and humanity. It demanded that influential countries pressure Israel to prevent it from hiding behind general statements and old biases.
The statement was drafted responsibly under the rule of international law and requirements for real peace.
The deliberations at the summit demonstrated that Arab and Islamic leaders did not travel to Riyadh to issue a traditional statement. It was apparent that they sensed the gravity of what is taking place and the danger of it being prolonged. The embers of the conflict could easily spread to other fronts. The eruption of a broader conflict would mean dragging the region into a new cycle of violence and major powers would be incapable of remaining on the sidelines, especially in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The statement called for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the siege on Gaza. At the same time, it demanded that the tragedy must not be allowed to happen again in the future. To that end, it demanded that the two-state solution be implemented to resolve the conflict.
Yes, the countries that met in Riyadh do not all share the same policies toward regional and international affairs. They each have their own interests, calculations, alliances and friendships. They look at crises from varying angles based on their own experiences and circumstances. But it is evident that these countries all agree on the broad headlines, which are demanding an immediate end to the war, establishing a just peace and ending the occupation and oppression. The vast majority of these countries believe that establishing an independent Palestinian state is the only way to resolve this chronic conflict.
The Arab and Islamic worlds were never capable of being effective players on the international arena. However, this is not the case now amid the international scene that is taking shape. The Arab and Islamic worlds have a growing sense that they possess the traits that allow them to develop into players capable of defending their interests. The Arab world boasts resources and capabilities and the West and major powers have vital interests in this region. Some countries from the Arab world are taking on a greater regional and international role, even playing an influential role in the G20. Perhaps this is why Riyadh sought to hold a joint summit. It wanted to address the world from a united position and in clear statements.
The Riyadh summit statement was important in its phrasing and messages. Now, attention will shift toward the committee that was formed, which will contact major countries to form a united front that can impose an end to the conflict based on the two-state solution. This is better than making do with a ceasefire and temporary treatments that will eventually lead to another, even more horrific, round of fighting.
• Ghassan Charbel is editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.