The global responsibility towards Palestinians
The Middle East region has suffered from outside interference and unclear U.S. policies
Finding a solution to the plight of the Palestinians remains an immediate global responsibility. This was the unanimous conclusion of participants in the Conference on Mediterranean Dialogue that was held in Rome from Dec. 10-12. They all agreed that Europe has a responsibility to come up with an action plan and mobilize united efforts to address the human rights of the Palestinian people. Indeed the continued unjust backing of Israel because of shared interests is detrimental to peace. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the main cause of the continued turbulence in the Middle East. Europe has to relate to new global priorities.
To restore the world order, Europe needs to reach out to partners in the Islamic world. However, finding the right way to respond is critical.
The Dialogue addressed past EU policies that have led to the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. Policy makers and EU opinion leaders acknowledged that the inability to offer a better future for young people in the region and ignoring their human rights as well as the displacement of families in war-torn areas feeds ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
Another unanimous conclusion was that the Islamophobia narrative is a big mistake. Europe must distance itself from the American neocon narrative of good and evil that was adopted after 9/11 and the Cold War narrative that divided the world into two camps.
The Middle East region has suffered from outside interference and unclear U.S. policies in an attempt to bring about regime change and the expansion of territoriesSamar Fatany
It is quite evident that the peace dialogue today is under assault. There were urgent calls from all participants to chart new EU policies to ease the tensions between the EU and the Middle East region.
Algeria’s Minister of Maghreb Affairs, African Union and Arab League Abdelkader Messahel urged governments to listen to the people and answer their needs before problems spiral out of control and turn into violence and rage. He argued that the military solution should never be an option and that we cannot continue bombing people and destroying homes in order to solve a problem.
Providing security, prosperity and peace should be the mission of Mediterranean leaders. The refugee issue needs immediate attention and should be resolved quickly. War, terrorism and Islamophobia are all a threat to peace. Honoring all victims is important.
Fabrizio Cicchitto, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament, agreed that the development of Europe has to go along with the development of the Middle East. Although quick military action is essential, it should be linked to an economic response. Europe needs to find a unified perception of the security situation. Military intervention is not always the right solution, as it only creates destruction and chaos. Europe should bolster nation states and uplift the Arab younger generation.
The conference participants all agreed that building mutual respect and protecting the rights of Muslims in Europe and Christians in the Arab world is a must and that hatred and persecution of minorities should not be tolerated and equal dignity for all should be maintained.
As an Arab and Muslim observer, I felt a sense of relief listening to the panelists outline the grievances of the Arab and Muslim world and the call for new measures to bring about peace and security to all parties concerned.
The Middle East region has suffered from outside interference and unclear U.S. policies in an attempt to bring about regime change and the expansion of territories. The illegal oil trade has allowed ISIS to expand. There should be serious guarantees to safeguard Syria and there should be no schemes to divide that country. Syria’s sovereignty and integral territorial security should be safeguarded.
During the discussions, they all agreed that Europe should demonstrate patience and resilience because it will take time to resolve the threat of terrorism. Europe must not be sucked into the conflict and should not overreact. The military option cannot deliver good governance. The more force, the worse the situation will be.
Arab officials participating in the dialogue highlighted some of the issues that are a cause of tension between the two regions. Egypt’s Minister of Investment Ashraf Salman spoke about focusing on priorities. He said the immediate issues of human rights are food security, the elimination of poverty, health care, housing and education and not freedom of speech which is what the West keeps harping on. The region needs support in order to provide these fundamental human rights to its large youth population.
Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Khaled Al-Attiyah spoke about the need to agree on the correct definition of a terrorist. A terrorist is not a freedom fighter who is fighting foreign occupation, nor is he someone who is oppressed and who is calling for a life of dignity or someone whose is aggrieved and is demanding justice.
Other EU officials also confirmed that a partnership of civilizations and the culture of compromise can bring about peace and would diffuse the narrative of extremism. Westernization should not be imposed on all. Countries should be free to choose the non-Western way of Russia, China and Syria. Open military intervention and imposed democratic reforms should not be the solution. What the region needs is gradual change at the pace chosen by its people.
The negative policies of arms sales and profiteering, meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, providing lethal weapons to different warring factions and proxy wars were also outlined as valid reasons for discontent. Policies should be based on conflict prevention and not antagonistic schemes that promote terrorist activities in the region.
The Mediterranean Dialogue and exchange of views, ideas and proposals among 200 policy makers, academics, businessmen and media personalities was very transparent and inspiring. It is time for Europe to admit that it has a responsibility for the Middle East and that its complacency and failed policies have contributed to the present situation. Terrorism and the refugee crisis affect all of us. Urgent European action is crucial in order to bring peace, security and prosperity to the region.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Dec. 12, 2015.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”
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